Actions

Work Header

Scattered Pictures

Chapter Text

A/N: This story takes place in the real world, though I almost considered making this story for the canon universe. The only problem with that was, I never saw Goku and Chi-Chi's relationship going this way in DBZ, nor did I want to see it. Part of what I love about them is that they would never leave each other - they're too loyal and committed. But as an alternate universe scenario, I like the idea for this couple. In the real world, I could see this happening between them. It's much different than other fics I've written for this couple, more focused on the romance than anything else.


Late. He was late again.

She wasn't going to let it show - how annoyed she was by that. As she made her way through her moderately sized, three bedroom, two bath home, tidying as she went, she kept a smile plastered on her face. Her boys were loitering about the house somewhere, and the last thing she needed now were their curious stares and innocent questions about what was bothering her. She would take what little control of the situation she had, which meant making sure she was ready for his arrival, and that her boys never suspected anything was amiss.

As she made her way into her eldest son's bedroom, where he was seated on his bed, his eyes, so much like his father's, lifted briefly from his book. "Hey, Mom."

The casual greeting was all she was going to get out of her teenager, she decided, when she smiled back, only to see Gohan's face in the book again. At least it was a textbook.

Smiling in approval of both Gohan's reading material and the cleanliness of his room, Chi-Chi gently closed the door behind her.

After stepping into her second son's bedroom across the hall, the smile fell from her face. "Goten! What are you doing?!"

She bit her tongue when she nearly scolded him for not being ready. That remark would raise questions - questions she shouldn't have to answer. But as she surveyed the mess, grimacing at the explosion of toys all over the barely visible hardwood floor of Goten's room, she couldn't help asking again, "what are you doing in here?"

Big, dark eyes blinked up at her. "Playing."

When the child returned to playing, as if nothing was wrong, Chi-Chi groaned out her frustration. Even more like his father than Gohan, both in personality and appearance, Goten was the child testing her patience the most these days. At only seven years old, he could reduce her to a weeping pile of rubble, and he didn't even have a clue what he was doing to her. Just like his father.

Chi-Chi closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead, fighting her oncoming migraine. "Just put your toys away before - Just put your toys away quickly."

Chi-Chi bit her lip as she turned to leave Goten's doorway, hoping he didn't catch her near slip. This routine was getting old. It was always solely up to her to do anything remotely responsible on the boys' behalf. She thought things would change after all these years. But nothing really had.

"Hey, Mom!" Goten's excited holler forced Chi-Chi to spin on her heels in the hall, "can I sleep over Trunks' house next weekend?"

She sighed. At least she could hear the discordant crashes of toys being thrown in the toy box as he asked, but still, that boy had spent more than enough time at his rich and spoiled best friend's house lately, as far as she was concerned. All week, he had been asking for high-tech toys Chi-Chi couldn't possibly afford, because Trunks had them. Trunks was a nice boy, but sometimes, Chi-Chi doubted how great of an influence he was on her child. Then again, maybe the only reason she felt that way was because Trunks' parents were friends of Goku's.

"Mom?"

"Yes, Goten. I heard you." Chi-Chi pressed her lips together, thinking how to carefully word her answer as she braced a hand against the wall scattered with various pictures of her boys, "your father and I will talk about it."

The answering groan from her child's bedroom made Chi-Chi wince. Apparently, Goten had already deciphered her code for a negative answer. Now, whether he had his sleepover or not, he'd know it was Dad who fought for it and Mom who denied it. There was no way for her to come out of this without being the villain.

"But what if Dad says-"

"I said we'll talk about it!" Chi-Chi snapped, causing her son to gasp in fear from his bedroom.

At least she had that. Goku might've had the honor of being the fun parent, but she certainly commanded respect from her boys. She knew they felt just as much love and admiration towards her, but whenever there was a new adventure to be had, they never hesitated to run off with their father.

Speaking of which...

Chi-Chi headed down the hall to her open floor plan living room and kitchen in search of the clock hanging above the fireplace mantle. If she remembered correctly, Goku said the game he was taking the boys to would start at five o'clock. The large, decorative clock showed five minutes to. Either they were going to be very late, or Goku had the time of the game wrong. Crossing her arms, Chi-Chi debated whether to go in there and tell those boys that it was time to leave. If Goku didn't show soon, she figured she could drive them to the stadium.

"Dad's running late again?" The rhetorical question from Gohan made Chi-Chi tense.

Slowly, she turned to face him, keeping the most genuine smile on her face that she could muster. "Gohan, are you ready for the game?"

Gohan smiled, holding up a full duffel bag. "It's a big night for Krillin. Dad thinks this game will be his big break."

Chi-Chi's smile widened. "Really? Well, I would tell you to wish him luck for me, but-"

"But by the time we get there," Gohan glanced at his watch, "the game might be into the second quarter already!"

Chi-Chi couldn't help chuckling along with her son. His bright optimism was contagious. That shared attribute with his father was one of many that initially attracted her to the grossly irresponsible man they were all waiting on.

Just when Chi-Chi looked over at the kitchen, seriously considering her car keys hanging above the counter, the sound of an engine revving in the driveway made her eyes go wide.

Gohan smiled at her as the car horn blared, then called over his shoulder, "Goten, you ready?!"

"Wait! Dad's here?" Goten called in a panic from his room. "I need to find my new action figure so I can show it to him!"

"Goten!" Gohan grumbled, his posture deflating as he turned to face the hall. "We're going to miss the game!"

"But I need it!"

Chi-Chi patted a hand on Gohan's shoulder. "Why don't you help him find it? I'll meet you out front."

Giving her teenage son a reassuring smile (he could worry just as badly as she did sometimes), Chi-Chi watched Gohan as he stormed into Goten's bedroom. Then she turned for the front door, doing some storming of her own as she went out to meet Goku.

Outside, the car engine was running, and between the exhaust fumes wafting from the engine and the smell of her potted, beautifully multicolored hydrangeas near the door, Chi-Chi could feel her migraine intensify as soon as she stepped out on the welcome mat. Or maybe it was just the tension caused by approaching her infuriating ex-husband.

Sitting in the driver's seat of his beat-up, yellow gas-guzzling hot rod was the most handsome man Chi-Chi had ever seen. Chi-Chi realized now that her original infatuation with Goku was mostly attributed to a fantasy Goku Son that she had created in her naive mind all those years ago, but his attractiveness never needed conjuring. If anything, he was more handsome now than when they married. Still, as he sat there with that handsome smile, not having a care in the world about the fact that he was running late for a friend's special event, or that he'd kept his children waiting, or that he'd inconvenienced her, Chi-Chi approached the handsome bastard with her eyes narrowed.

"Hi, Chi-Chi! Are the boys ready to go?"

Chi-Chi slammed a palm on the hood of Goku's beloved car. "You're late."

"Huh?" Goku raised his brows, then glanced at his dashboard, as if the matter of the time hadn't occurred to him until Chi-Chi mentioned it. "I guess time really does fly when you're having fun."

While Goku laughed and raised a hand to rub the back of his head in a habitual gesture, Chi-Chi rolled her eyes. She didn't even want to ask what kind of 'fun' Goku had been having that made him half an hour late to pick up his children for the weekend.

"So, are they-"

"They're coming." Chi-Chi said hastily as Goku glanced towards the house, seeking the emergence of their happily oblivious children. "We need to talk."

Goku tensed as his eyes darted to meet Chi-Chi's. "About?"

Chi-Chi couldn't help quirking a smile. She enjoyed the fact that she could still strike fear in him. "Goten wants to spend the night at Bulma's next weekend."

Goku shrugged. "Okay."

"I don't want him to. He was just there."

"Aww. Why not? He's seven. Seven-year-olds have sleepovers with their best friends all the time."

Chi-Chi shook her head. "Don't give him permission, Goku, or you'll make me into the bad guy again!"

Goku pouted. Chi-Chi had to turn away from that look as she scoffed. She knew what argument was coming from him, and she foresaw them getting into another argument over his permissiveness, but there was no time. She had to move on to a more important matter. She hoped Goku understood the importance of the parental decision she'd taken the liberties of making on her own.

Taking a deep breath, Chi-Chi met Goku's eyes again. "I registered Gohan at Orange Star High. I've taught him all I can from home. He's transferring to public school next week."

Goku's pout disappeared as his face lit up with that contagious smile he was famous for. Looking at him, Chi-Chi couldn't hide a tight-lipped smile. It was a relief, not getting an argument from Goku on this important matter. She was proud of her son's academic accomplishments so far. Gohan had clear ambitions to become a professor, and he was already off to a great start, entering his junior year at the head of his class.

"Wow! Going to school in the big city!" Goku gushed, turning his head to smile towards the doorway of Chi-Chi's suburban home as their two sons finally emerged.

Chi-Chi turned away from the others, shaking her head in disbelief. Of course it was the big city that had Goku excited, not the great prospects for their son's future. Goku never cared for academic achievements. Hell, he was a high school dropout who never gave a second thought to finishing his education. Why she expected Goku to place any value on Gohan's schooling, she had no idea.

Goku beamed at the two boys as they rushed for the passenger side of the car. "Gohan! Goten!"

"Dad!" Both boys called for him in unison, laughing with glee as Gohan dove into the front seat, while Goten raced into the back, both of them tossing their bags in the back seat and slamming the doors shut with two harsh thuds that shook the car.

Goku paid no mind to the damage they could have inflicted on his car, while Chi-Chi cringed as she imagined how badly Goku was probably beating up on poor Nimbus on a regular basis. Under his care, that car might not last much longer.

Goku turned to his passengers, bracing his arm over the headrest, "Ready to see Krillin and Yamcha kick some ass?"

"Yeah!" Gohan beamed, nodding vigorously in agreement, while Goten snickered at Goku's vulgar word.

Chi-Chi gasped. "Goku!"

"Come on, Dad!" Goten bounced in his seat. "Let's go!"

"Alright!" Goku clenched his fingers around the steering wheel, before looking out his window to see Chi-Chi stepping back from the car and crossing her arms.

Chi-Chi smiled fondly at his moment of hesitation, before meeting the eyes of her boys with heartfelt emotion, knowing she wouldn't see them for the next two days. Then she smiled back at Goku, showing her appreciation for his rare show of consideration for her.

"Bye, Mom!" Goten's little fingers wiggled in the air as he waved from the backseat. "I'll miss you!"

Gohan leaned past Goku, shooting Chi-Chi a handsome smile through the opening of the driver's side window. "Bye. Have fun with Eighteen tonight. We'll see you Sunday!"

As Goku's car slowly backed out of her short driveway, Chi-Chi raised a palm to her lips, releasing it to blow a kiss to her beloved children. "Bye! Have them back here by seven o'clock on Sunday, Goku! I mean it!"

By the time she'd called her last words, Chi-Chi was practically screaming. It was impossible to compete with the noise of Goku's car, though it had always been difficult to compete with Nimbus. That hadn't been her problem for a long time, though. She could let some other woman worry about that.

Speaking of other women, the thought of her weekly meet up with Eighteen that Gohan had mentioned brought some relief to Chi-Chi's mind, especially after that stressful wait at the end of her day. Ironically, though Eighteen was married to Goku's childhood friend playing in the game that night, Eighteen was meeting up with Chi-Chi instead of attending. The stoic blonde whole-heartedly sided with Chi-Chi after the divorce. The two women were closer friends now than they ever were when Chi-Chi and Goku were together.

Chi-Chi was looking forward to seeing her friend, when she would surely get a chance to vent about her ex. She would dress herself up now for sushi and drinks, get out of the house for the evening, and afterwards, try to find a way to fill the void in her time for the rest of the weekend without feeling lonely in her empty home.

She just hoped that Goku would be on time for a change on Sunday. It was hard enough to wait for her boys through the weekend without having to anticipate a late return. But she had to prepare herself. Goku was never on time.

As much as Chi-Chi had once envisioned Goku as the perfect husband, he had proven her wrong at every turn. He wasn't a perfect father, either, but those boys both worshipped him. At least they were happy. Their happiness was all that really mattered to Chi-Chi. Maybe someday, Chi-Chi could move on from Goku and find her own happiness again.

In the meantime, she was content with being a mother and giving her sons the best life she could provide for them, which she had been doing just fine on her own for the last seven years.

Chapter Text

"So, how was your first day of school?"

Seconds after Chi-Chi asked the question, the front door clicked closed. She rounded the corner from the kitchen to see Gohan gaping at her like a deer in headlights and absently allowing the strap of his backpack to slip from his fingers. Maybe she needed to give him a moment to settle before she started bombarding him with questions. But she couldn't help herself. She was so excited for him! She'd never gone to public school – neither had Goku. To some extent, she could relate to that element of Goku's excitement about Gohan's new endeavor.

Gohan closed his gaping mouth before taking several steps towards the kitchen. "Uh…hi, Mom."

"Oh!" Chi-Chi beamed as she spun hurriedly back into the kitchen, towards the stove, recalling her surprise for Gohan. "Here! Have a seat!"

While Gohan slid into one of the two wooden barstools and rested his elbows on the laminated brown countertop, Chi-Chi turned to him, presenting the hot pot of homemade fried rice – one of Gohan's favorites.

When he peered into the metal pot, Gohan's eyes lit. "Fried rice!"

Already scurrying around her tiny kitchen, Chi-Chi rushed to retrieve a fork, plate and napkin for Gohan. She was so happy. She still couldn't wait to hear about Gohan's big day, but it was just great to have the boys back after another long weekend. And Gohan's reaction to her cooking was satisfying in and of itself.

Of course, no one ever reacted as excitedly to her food as Goku did. The memories of how he used to gush over her cooking while sitting and eating with a younger Gohan on days like this brought another smile to her face.

After a moment of nostalgic pause, Chi-Chi placed the items in front of Gohan, who started doling the food as soon as he grabbed the fork. "Thanks, Mom! This looks great!"

Chi-Chi pressed her elbows on the counter, resting her chin in her hands as she smiled expectantly at Gohan. "Now, tell me."

Gohan blinked at her with a questioning hum, his cheeks already bulging with his first bite of rice.

As he chewed, Chi-Chi giggled. "Tell me about high school. How was it?"

Gohan swallowed and put his fork down, then rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, it was interesting. I made a few new friends, I guess."

"Mm-hmm." Chi-Chi nodded, waiting eagerly for more.

"Uh," when a distant, hollow thud sounded from the hallway, Gohan furrowed his brows and glanced over his shoulder, "where's Goten?"

"Oh. He's taking a bath."

Gohan raised a brow. "Now?"

Chi-Chi waved a hand dismissively. "He was playing outside and came in covered in mud. I wasn't going to let him mess up my clean floors. Oh! I'm inviting the family for his birthday gathering at the end of the month. Make sure you don't make any plans two Fridays from now."

Gohan took another bite of rice, then raised a brow at Chi-Chi as he swallowed. "The family? You mean…"

"Yes." Chi-Chi forced a smile. "It'll be fine."

She knew Gohan was skeptical about the idea of her hosting a gathering with Goku at the house. The last time she had her ex over, after all, ended with her screaming at Goku and throwing him out of the house. But he was Goten's father, and Goten's birthday wouldn't be the same without Goku there. Goku had missed enough of Goten's birthdays already. So on this occasion, she promised herself not to let anything ruin Goten's special day.

Clearing her throat, Chi-Chi rushed to change the subject. "Come on now, Gohan. What happened at school?"

When her son winced and deliberately shoved another mound of rice in his mouth to buy himself some time, Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes. "Out with it, Gohan! Is something wrong? Did somebody bother you over there?"

Gohan's eyes sparked with panic. "N-no!"

He starting choking, prompting Chi-Chi to hurriedly retrieve him a glass of water. Once she filled the glass at the faucet and handed it to him, Gohan gulped down the water, sighing in relief when it was over. But then he looked at her again, frowning. Chi-Chi crossed her arms and waited.

"It's nothing like that, really!" Gohan bared his teeth in a contrived smile. "Everything's great."

Chi-Chi was unconvinced. "What are you hiding, Gohan?"

Gohan sighed heavily, averting his gaze before looking at Chi-Chi again in defeat. "I know how important this is to you. I didn't want to complain, but-"

Chi-Chi's eyes grew wide as she realized that maybe she'd done something to upset Gohan. "Oh, Gohan! What is it?"

Gohan spoke quietly, a meek smile on his face. "It's kind of a long way to ride my bike. I was…a few minutes late this morning."

Chi-Chi gasped. "Late? On the first day?"

Gohan chuckled, trying to ease the tension. "Well, I had no idea how long it was really going to take! I'll have to leave even earlier tomorrow. It's too bad I can't-"

"I'll drive you to school."

"No!" Gohan scrunched his face into a tight grimace at the suggestion. "No, that's alright, Mom. I already stick out like a sore thumb. The last thing I need is my Mom driving me to school."

Chi-Chi placed her hands on her hips. "So what do you plan to do about it? …And why do you stick out like a sore thumb?"

That second question, once it occurred to her, actually became a lot more important. Chi-Chi leaned in domineeringly as she asked it, wanting - no needing an explanation about that. It was clear that Gohan had forgotten all about the transportation issue once they delved into the fitting-in topic, which he obviously regretted having let slip.

"Mom…"

A series of crashes and bangs from down the hall made both Chi-Chi and Gohan snap their heads in that direction, before a cheery little voice called through the bathroom door, "I'm done!"

As she heard the quiet hum of the water draining through the pipes, Chi-Chi smiled and huffed in relief "Okay, Goten! Make sure your feet are dry so you don't slip when you leave the bathroom!"

"Mom." The decisiveness in Gohan's voice made Chi-Chi snap her attention back to him. "School is great, really. I just have to adjust a little, but I think I'm going to like it there."

Chi-Chi smiled, relieved at seeing in Gohan's eyes just as much decisiveness as she could hear in his voice. "I'm glad to hear that."

"But if it's alright with you, I think I'm going to ask Mr. Piccolo if he can either give me a ride tomorrow or let me drive his car."

Chi-Chi internally winced, trying not to frown at that. It wasn't the idea of Gohan driving that bothered her. The boy had his license and was more capable and responsible than most teenage boys behind the wheel. But it stung a little, knowing Gohan preferred driving to school with Piccolo over her. Then again, the man was like a second father to Gohan, and the tall, bald, intimidating man certainly didn't look like Gohan's parent. Chi-Chi could understand why Gohan's martial arts mentor was a brighter alternative in the eyes of a teenager who was trying to fit in with his new peers.

"Can I give him a call?"

Chi-Chi gave a sidelong glance to the discarded blue canvas backpack by the front door, which looked very heavy and full. Then she narrowed her eyes at Gohan. "You have homework tonight?"

Gohan frowned, but nodded.

"Why don't you get that done, and we'll discuss this over dinner."

As if she'd just said yes, Gohan smiled. Chi-Chi sighed. She might as well have. Her son knew her too well. She didn't want him being late to school again, and she hated the idea of him riding off during morning work traffic while it was still dark outside and drivers might not see his bike. And of all the people Gohan could be asking to drive with, at least it was the man who found Goku almost as infuriating as she did. It would be good to have someone on Chi-Chi's side around the house more. Sometimes, it seemed like all of the people in her life were friends of Goku's – a result of his overwhelming popularity and easygoing charm, no doubt. If only they knew Goku like she did.

"Mom," Gohan smiled hopefully, "is it all right if I invite Mr. Piccolo for Goten's birthday?"

Chi-Chi winced. Apparently, Gohan missed it when she said 'family' gathering. But then again, she knew her son viewed Piccolo as a part of their family. She knew it would mean a lot to Gohan, and Goten never minded having the extra company. She just hoped Piccolo didn't cause any problems with Goku. Nevertheless, wanting to make her son happy, Chi-Chi nodded her permission.

"Mmmmm!" The ravenous hum from the hall made Chi-Chi glance up towards Goten, where her younger son was approaching with his hair still dripping from his bath and his pajamas clinging to the lingering moisture on his skin. "I smell fried rice!"

After Goten reached the kitchen, scurrying into the empty barstool beside Gohan like an eager little monkey, Chi-Chi grabbed for her wooden spoon, slapping the boy's knuckles before he could reach into the pot of rice. "What do you say?"

"Pleeeeease, can I have some?"

"I'll get you a plate." Chi-Chi gave a curt nod as Goten licked his lips, his eyes never moving from the half-filled pot. "Next time, Goten, remember your manners."

"Sorry, Mom." Goten said sheepishly while Chi-Chi set a plate down. "I guess I forgot. It just smells so good!"

Goten smiled wide, giggling and dancing in his chair as he scooped the rice onto his plate. Chi-Chi was quick to aid him, both to avoid spills and to keep him from overloading his plate. They did still have dinner coming later. A dinner where Chi-Chi was sure to give Gohan permission for his ride to school with Piccolo tomorrow. As soon as she had the money, she decided, she would have to get her son a car.


Goten had asked for a birthday cake with orange frosting. Just orange. Chi-Chi offered to make him something more elaborate, but he was content with his simple, solid colored frosting. Of course, she had to make it the most vibrant orange she could. It was the least she could do. As she set about spreading the frosting, the house was filling with the savory smells of a nice, home cooked meal. The boys were content, and Piccolo was already there with them.

As she spread the vivid frosting smoothly over the moist chocolate cake, waiting for her other guests to arrive while her boys and Piccolo watched TV together, Chi-Chi daydreamed about how her growing little boy would be doing in school by the time he was Gohan's age.

At the sounds of various, frenzied doorbell rings, Chi-Chi balanced her loaded spreading knife on the edge of the frosting bowl. There were only two people she was waiting on, and she was fairly certain who this one was, given that he arrived on time. Judging by the sound of that doorbell ringing, he would need her help with the door.

When Chi-Chi made it to the front door, she was just in time to find it swinging towards her. She couldn't see the face of her guest behind the massive pile of presents that barged through her doorway, but she didn't need to. No one but him would bring Goten so many birthday gifts, and no one but him was big enough to still be visible around the outskirts of that massive pile.

"Dad!" She reached to take some gifts off his hands and find where he was hiding back there. "You didn't need to buy Goten this many presents!"

"Why not?" A muffled chuckle rumbled from behind the boxes, until Chi-Chi removed one last present and found his smiling, bearded face. "He's my youngest grandson! I only have two of them to spoil, you know! What else am I going to do with all my money?"

"Oh," Chi-Chi rolled her eyes as she turned to place the pile of presents on the nearby table, "I don't know. Do you mean besides help your only daughter pay her mortgage and feed her children?"

Chi-Chi turned with her hands on her hips, intending to scowl at her father for the frivolous purchases piled on her table and at her feet, but instead softening under his warm gaze and flinging herself into his arms. "It's good to see you, Dad."

"You too, Chi-Chi."

Ox's massive, hairy arms brushed against her neck while he crushed her in a big bear hug. Breathing in the familiar, woodsy scent of her father's warm chest, Chi-Chi beamed. His presence brought such comfort to her home. The boys were going to be so happy to see their grandpa.

After releasing his hold on Chi-Chi, Ox immediately bellowed down the hall, "Where's the birthday boy?"

"Graaandpa!" The scurry of tiny footsteps shuffled down the hall, before a spiky head of hair appeared from around the corner.

"Goten!" Ox grunted and chuckled, nearly choking in surprise as Goten tackled his grandfather in a tight embrace.

Chi-Chi laughed, watching the two of them, as her father caught Goten and then kneeled to put Goten down on the ground. Only one more person needed to arrive to make this a wonderful eighth birthday for Goten. After all the planning she had done to make this perfect for him, Goku better not ruin it.

With a wide smile on his face, Goten turned towards the pile of presents, cocking his head and raising his brows at the sight. "Are all of those for me?"

Ox stood up, shaking with laughter as he placed a hand on Goten's head. "You bet they are!"

"Come on, Dad," Chi-Chi waved him forward, leading him towards the kitchen, "why don't you have a bite to eat while I finish with the cake?"

Goten pulled Ox by the hand. "No, Grandpa! Come sit with us. We're watching the news."

"News?" Ox laughed and allowed his hand to be violently tugged by small, but strong fingers. "You're watching the news, Goten? At your age, all I ever watched were cartoons!"

Chi-Chi smirked as she parted from them, returning to her position at the kitchen counter while Ox was greeted in the living room by Gohan and Piccolo. She knew that once her father saw their extra company he would understand exactly why there weren't any cartoons on the television. Her sons knew how to be proper hosts, and that meant catering to their guest's preferences.

While putting the finishing touches on Goten's cake, Chi-Chi found herself humming as she worked. They were always such pleasant tasks, cooking and baking. She found this to be a great stress reliever. But the fact that what she was working on at the moment symbolized the passing of her son's eighth birthday made the task even more enjoyable. She couldn't believe how fast time was flying by. She could remember when Goten was just a baby like it was yesterday. Of course, that wasn't the most pleasant time of her life to think back on. It was shortly after Goten's birth that Goku made a drastic decision which forced Chi-Chi to come to the painful realization that he was never going to change.

Chi-Chi was drawn from her thoughts and her impressive, finished cake when the high-pitched ring of her doorbell echoed through the house again. This time, both of her sons shot to their feet, as well as her father.

Gohan hurriedly made his way around the furniture, while Goten simply opted to jump over the back of the couch and cut his brother off. "Dad's here!"

Chi-Chi wrapped her fingers around the edge of her laminate countertop, pressing her lips together as she heard the front door fly open.

"Hey!" Goku's laughter filled Chi-Chi's ears. "Happy birthday, Goten!"

"Dad!" Goten's laughter joined his, and the sound carried from the doorway, filling the house.

"Goku, my boy!" Ox bellowed. "How have you been?"

Closing her eyes, Chi-Chi reminded herself to breathe. Everything was going to be fine. She promised herself that she wouldn't ruin Goten's birthday party, so in spite of whatever Goku might say or do, she would not react. She would remain calm. Goten was so happy right now. She wanted to make sure he stayed that way.

"You okay?"

Chi-Chi gasped and opened her eyes, surprised by the proximity of the low voice addressing her. Piccolo was standing in the kitchen, a few steps away, his body angled half-towards Chi-Chi and half-towards the activity at the doorway. Chi-Chi swallowed hard and nodded. Cracking an appreciative smile at Piccolo, she turned to leave the kitchen and join the others. She could enjoy this gathering just as much as everyone else.

Chi-Chi rounded the corner to find her youngest son laughing and hanging from his father's bicep while her oldest was between Ox and Goku with his father's arm wrapped over his shoulder.

Chi-Chi smiled. "Hi, Goku. Glad you could make it on time."

Though Gohan and Ox both tensed, Goku smiled back at her. "Hi, Chi-Chi."

A tense silence briefly filled the house.

Chi-Chi internally winced, knowing she was already stirring up tension with that remark. She wasn't trying to be facetious. She was genuinely happy that Goku was on time, but that wasn't how it sounded.

After watching Goten released his arm to fall to the hardwood floor with a stomp that broke the silence, Goku looked up to meet Chi-Chi's gaze with an appreciative sniff. "Something sure smells good. I'm starving!"

A wave of relief washed over Chi-Chi, as well as everyone else. It was impossible to stay tense in Goku's presence. He always found a way to bring levity to the situation.

She smirked and rolled her eyes. "When aren't you? Come on, there's meatloaf and potatoes. I made plenty."


By the time they had moved on to cake, Chi-Chi was finally relaxing. Goten had blushed and laughed off his embarrassment under all the attention when everyone sang 'happy birthday' to him, while Gohan seemed more content and relaxed than Chi-Chi had seen him since school started. It was obvious to her, though, as Gohan worked on cutting Goten's birthday cake, that something was still bothering her son, just as something had been ever since he started school. She could tell Piccolo could sense it, too. Piccolo had hardly said a word or had a bite to eat all evening, instead keeping a keen eye trained on Gohan the whole time.

As Chi-Chi leaned across the table to hand her father the final slice of cake, she looked over her shoulder to eye Gohan. "Gohan, is everything all right?"

"Hm?" Gohan lifted his chin, his eyes wide with surprise as if Chi-Chi had just broken him from deep thought. "Uh…I…"

When Goku stopped eating to stare curiously at his son and Chi-Chi leaned in closer, Gohan's cheeks turned a visible shade of pink.

"What's up, Gohan?" Goku asked nonchalantly, before taking a second bite of cake.

Gohan cringed from the attention, but finally looked up to meet his mother's gaze. "Well,m actually, there's something I've been meaning to ask. It's…about a girl."

"Oh!" Chi-Chi gushed. "A girl?"

"Gohan," Goku issued his son a teasing smile, "you have a girlfriend?"

"N-not a girlfriend!" Gohan exclaimed, going rigid in his chair as Goten snickered and Chi-Chi smiled and eased into her seat beside him. "Just a date. I don't even think I like this girl."

Goku and Ox laughed, while Piccolo said, "so why are you going on a date with her?"

Gohan grimaced, shying away from the attention again. Chi-Chi couldn't believe her boys were growing up so fast. Gohan was going on his first date! And here she thought Goten was growing up too fast by turning eight already. The first date was a big step!

"I kind of have to take her out, Mr. Piccolo. It's hard to explain. But…I don't know what to do! Wh-" Gohan stopped himself, his eyes meeting Chi-Chi's and then Goku's, "what did you two do on your first date?"

Shocked by the question, Chi-Chi immediately looked at Goku. When she saw him looking back at her with the same shocked expression, she felt something odd in the pit of her stomach. That was so many years ago, and she hadn't thought about it for so long.

"Well…" Chi-Chi trailed off as she recounted that special day in her mind, feeling heat rush to her face with Goku's eyes fixed on hers as she remembered, "um…"

At the sight of Chi-Chi's flushed face, Goku's dark eyes softened and his lips pulled into a small smile. "I took your mom to a park."

It had been a warm summer day, not long after a teenage Chi-Chi met the boy named Goku Son. The park wasn't crowded. There were enough busy people around having their own picnics, dog walks, and hand-holding strolls to make the occasion a very casual first date.

Chi-Chi was clinging to Goku, gushing about her plans for her future, while Goku was allowing her to drag him around the flowerbed-lined paths by the arm, even as he repeatedly asked her to let him go so he could walk more freely.

After their walk, at Chi-Chi's suggestion, they settled on a grassy spot beneath the shade of an old oak tree that had a picturesque view of the sunlight-reflecting pond in the center of the park. It was then that they were able to get more familiar with one another.

With a patterned picnic blanket stretched beneath them on the soft blades of grass, surrounded by flittering butterflies and cascading Spanish moss, Chi-Chi sat and shared a lunch with Goku. They had eaten sandwiches and apples from the wicker basket Chi-Chi packed, laughed as they recalled the fun from the sporting event where they met, and to Chi-Chi's excitement, shared their first timid kiss beneath the limited privacy of the shaded tree, before their date ended with Goku walking Chi-Chi safely home.

When Goku finished telling Gohan the story in his own, blunt way, Chi-Chi forced her eyes towards Gohan, intent on avoiding Goku's gaze while vivid details of the memory -the sound of Goku's laugh, the way he seemed so adorably uncomfortable with her advances, the feel of his lips softly caressing hers- were playing through her mind. "So, Gohan, does that help?"

Gohan stuttered, looking surprised to be addressed by Chi-Chi so quickly, but gave a hesitant shrug. Goten was pressing his lips together as if fighting a fit of giggles. Piccolo's back was turned to the table, which Chi-Chi attributed to him either being indifferent to their story, or giving the family space because that story seemed too personal for his ears.

Ox was smiling fondly at Chi-Chi, his chin resting in his palm as his eyes shifted to Goku. Chi-Chi sighed upon spying her father's telling gaze. Ox always loved Goku. He nearly had as hard a time with the divorce as she did. She knew that at the faintest hint of reconciliation, her father would be putting plans into motion for another wedding. Before Chi-Chi could give in to the gnawing temptation of seeing how Goku reacted to the sharing of that story, she was startled by a loud exclamation from him.

"Oh!" Goku reached in his pocket and turned towards Gohan. "I almost forgot!"

Goku's arm flew forward, tossing something across the table to Gohan. Fortunately, Gohan's reflexes were fast enough for him to catch the flying item. It hit his hand with a metallic jingle, and when Gohan adjusted his grip, a small keychain fell through his fingers. Chi-Chi eyed the dangling keychain, recognizing exactly what that was - the cloud-shaped keychain from Nimbus' keys.

"Can't drive without those!"

Gohan beamed at his father, clutching his fingers tightly around the keys before shoving them below the table into his pants pocket. "Thanks, Dad! You're a life saver!"

Chi-Chi fluttered her lashes, trying to fight off the wave of disbelief she was feeling at witnessing this exchange. "What is this?"

Gohan pushed his empty, chocolate crumb-coated plate aside. "What's what?"

"The keys, Gohan." Chi-Chi clenched her teeth. "What are you doing with your father's keys?"

"They're for me to take Nimbus to school from now on! Isn't this great?"

Chi-Chi felt her jaw clench tighter. Goku had to be out his mind, intending to let their son drive that car. A million fears raced through her mind at the thoughts of Gohan driving that death trap, while she also wondered how many times Goku had already allowed Gohan to drive it without telling her.

Seeing the lack of a smile from his mother, Gohan raised his brows. "Dad didn't tell you?"

Shaking her head, Chi-Chi turned a glare on Goku. "No."

Goku laughed it off. "It's no big deal, Chi-Chi. Gohan told me how Piccolo's been driving him to school, so I told him he could take Nimbus."

"Goku," Chi-Chi said, "no one but you is capable of driving that car."

"That's not true!" Goku sat upright, indicating Gohan with a wave of his hand. "Gohan can do it!"

"The stick shift gets stuck every time you need to shift gears," Chi-Chi ticked off her fingers one by one as she spoke, "the brakes are unreliable, the visibility is atrocious. Should I go on?"

"I know, but-"

"Goku! For goodness sakes, Bulma nearly killed herself trying to drive that car once!"

"Yeah, but Gohan can handle Nimbus. I've been giving him lessons. He drives it just as well as me now, if not better."

"I can do it, Mom."

Chi-Chi gasped, her eyes snapping to her son and immediately softening upon seeing his pleading look.

Gohan took a deep breath. "Please say you're okay with this."

Beneath the table, Chi-Chi's balled up fists loosened. She was still worried for her son's safety. Nothing would ever change that. But on the other hand, she was mildly impressed that Goku actually spent the time to give Gohan driving lessons. It was the first time she ever heard of him doing something with Gohan beyond having fun and training him in the martial arts he revolved his life around. And if he was willing to hand over the keys to his treasured Nimbus, he had to have a good amount of faith in his son's ability to drive the car. Maybe, just this once, she could give in.

With a steeling breath, she looked up to meet Goku's gaze, then locked her eyes on Gohan's, making sure to remain firm as she gave her permission. "You'd better be careful! You will only drive it to and from school, and don't make any last minute decisions in that car, Gohan!"

Gohan smiled in relief. "I will. Thanks, Mom."

Chi-Chi's eyes slowly shifted towards Goku again, narrowing as another thought occurred to her. "If Gohan's taking Nimbus, how are you going to get around?"

"I don't need Nimbus." Goku smirked. "I have lots of ways of getting around."

From the other side of the room, Piccolo scoffed, causing Chi-Chi to cast a glance in his direction. He'd been so quiet, she nearly forgot he was there.

"Mr. Piccolo," Gohan said, "thanks for coming tonight, and for helping me with getting to school the last couple of weeks."

Piccolo glanced over his shoulder, his gaze softening as soon as he saw Gohan's smile. "No problem, kid. I'm always here if you need me."

"Oh, Dad!" Goten abruptly interrupted with a wide-eyed gaze set on Goku. "Did you bring Mighty Mask?"

Goku cocked his head and blinked at Goten. "Who?"

"My action figure! You know, the one I forgot after the sleepover."

Chi-Chi grunted and immediately narrowed her eyes at her ex. "What sleepover?"

It was possible that Goten was referring to leaving the figure at Goku's house, and Chi-Chi predicted that Goku was going to make that excuse, but after seeing the guilt-ridden grimace on Goku's face, Chi-Chi wasn't going to buy it. She had expressly forbidden a sleepover with Trunks that past weekend, and she was just now discovering that Goku allowed it to happen anyways. Goku knew he was in the wrong, and he knew he was busted after their son just gave away their secret.

Goten's eyes darted between Goku and Chi-Chi, his mouth gaping in realization. "Oops."

"Goten!" Gohan punched his little brother on the shoulder.

Chi-Chi pressed her lips into a hard line, shaking her head at Goku speechlessly as she felt her blood beginning to boil. This was what he always did. It never failed, and it wasn't fair. She had to have her say as a parent, no matter how unreasonable Goku thought her decisions were! They were her children, too! And he had no right to send them off to places she didn't want them to go!

"Chi-Chi…" her father's coaxing voice did nothing to console her, not when it was tempered by Goku's nervous whimper.

"Chi-Chi," Goku composed himself and bared his teeth in a forced smile towards Goten, "it's Goten's birthday."

That only made her angrier. Now it was her fault that Goten's birthday was about to be ruined? She wasn't going to let him turn the blame on her. But, dammit! Goten's birthday was being ruined. The only way she could save this for her son was to suck it up and let this go, like she'd been forced to do so many times before.

"You know what, Goten?" Goku stood from his chair, backing away from Chi-Chi and nervously rubbing the back of his head, "I just remembered that I promised Master Roshi I'd help him with some work at the dojo tonight. I'd better get going before Krillin gets stuck finishing everything by himself. But Mighty Mask is in the car. So is your birthday present."

Goten gasped, his eyes lighting excitedly. "Can I open it now?"

Goku laughed, somehow looking so natural and at ease, even as Chi-Chi was still simmering in her chair. "Of course you can!"

"All right!" Goten jumped out of his chair, racing for the front door.

Chi-Chi was still angry, but just knowing that Goten was happy and Goku was going to leave her house was making the tension ease from her body. Sometimes that man really knew how to get under her skin. If he could be considerate just once, she would probably pass out from shock. She couldn't understand why Goku didn't see the reasoning behind her strict rules, or understand her thinking towards the way the boys should be raised in general. Even if he didn't understand it, he should have done what she asked, just like he should have never wanted to leave all those years ago.

Gohan stepped forward and embraced his father in a tight hug. "Bye, Dad. Thanks again for loaning me Nimbus."

Goku laughed and grasped Gohan's shoulders, standing eye to eye with his son. "It's nothin', Gohan!"

Gohan met Goku's gaze, hesitating as he opened his mouth to say something, but instead reached into his pocket and headed for the front of the house. "I'm going to unlock the car so Goten can get his toy and his gift."

Goku smiled as he watched Gohan leave the dining room, then turned his attention on the scowling man in the background. "Bye, Piccolo!"

Piccolo glowered, not saying a word back to Goku.

Goku seemed not to notice Piccolo's hostility as he turned towards Ox. "Bye, O-"

Goku's words were cut off as Ox stood and wrapped Goku in a tight hug, cutting off his air supply. "Take care, Goku. Say hi to Master Roshi for me, and don't be a stranger!"

Goku coughed when he was released, but smiled widely up at his ex-father-in-law. "Sure thing, Ox."

Then Goku shifted towards Chi-Chi, hesitating. As Chi-Chi pursed her lips in displeasure and then stubbornly turned away from him with her chin held high, Goku sighed. "Aww, Chi-Chi. Don't be like that."

"I have nothing to say to you, Goku."

"C'mon, Chi-Chi. I'm sorry. Goten really wanted to see Trunks, and Bulma was pushin' for it, an-"

"I don't care! I said no sleepover, but you let him do it anyways. And then you tried to hide it from me!"

Piccolo snorted. "Being manipulated by a couple of children. That's pathetic, even for you, Goku."

Chi-Chi turned her glare on Piccolo. "I don't need your help, Piccolo!"

Piccolo balked, both visibly surprised and frightened by Chi-Chi's hostility. But she was quick to redirect it to Goku again.

"You get out there now." Chi-Chi raised a finger towards her front door. "Those boys are waiting on you and I will not let you and your careless decisions ruin Goten's birthday."

Goku furrowed his brows. "How am I ruinin'-"

"Out!" Chi-Chi screamed, clenching her eyes shut as she winced at the ferocity in her own voice. She kept her eyes clenched shut until she heard the delayed sound of footsteps at the front door. Inhaling and exhaling deeply, Chi-Chi opened her eyes to the sight of Piccolo and Ox both remaining in the dining room, staring at her. "What?"

"N-nothing." Ox smiled nervously, waving his hands in a defensive manner.

"That's right." Piccolo spat, rushing out of the dining room. "I was just leaving."

Chi-Chi groaned. "Piccolo!"

The sound of her front door slamming shut made Chi-Chi cringe. She rolled her eyes and took another deep breath. Piccolo wouldn't stay angry. That wasn't even his fight. Of course, it was unusual for Piccolo to be angry after one of Goku and Chi-Chi's fights. Something was definitely off about that night. Chi-Chi had a strange feeling, but in the midst of her own anger and feelings of betrayal, she couldn't begin to comprehend what had just happened beyond the obvious.

When the boys came back inside with Goten's action figure and his new birthday gift, Goku was gone, leaving Nimbus in the driveway for Gohan's future use. Chi-Chi wished she could catch a break from thinking about him, but everywhere she looked, there was always something to remind her of Goku. Now she had acquired another reminder, blatantly blaring yellow and sitting in her driveway. She knew after this night, the Mighty Mask action figure was going to bother her every time she saw it. The only thing that turned out good that night was that Goten had no idea how tense things had been between his parents, and with the opening of all of his grandfather's gifts, the birthday gathering ended successfully.

It turned out to be a good thing that Goku chose to leave when he did. When Chi-Chi's head hit the pillow that night, she fell asleep with that ironic thought inundating her mind.


A/N: This was so not a happy chapter, and I know it might seem like the story is going in a not-getting-back-together direction, but I promise there are good things to come. I promise I am not out to portray Goku as a total deadbeat or Chi-Chi as extremely unreasonable. With a premise like this, they can't just start getting along again after seven years of divorce without a reason. I had to first show you a deeper look into their estranged relationship, but things will get better. Just don't burn me at the stake for this chapter before we get to the next one.

 

Chapter Text

A/N: This chapter is a long one, just to warn you.


Sitting on a modern barstool in front of a busily working sushi chef, Chi-Chi pinched between her fingers the steaming, tiny ceramic cup nestled against its matching carafe on the granite bartop. After she brought the small white cup to her red lips and sipped, she closed her eyes to savor the burning sensation swirling in her mouth and down her throat from the drink's heat and alcohol content. Then as she opened her eyes, she hummed in satisfaction at the smooth taste lingering in her mouth afterwards. It was just what she needed to calm her nerves, but it still wasn't enough to temper the animated tongue-lashing she hadn't finished yet.

The sushi bar was packed with people from all walks of life that Friday night, as usual. The roar of conversing voices was overshadowing the quiet instrumental music playing in the background. Waiters in black attire weaved between tables with trays full of sushi, drinks, soups, and other hot dishes, while a crowd waited near the hostess stand for open tables. That was a position Chi-Chi and Eighteen had never been in coming here, seeing that they preferred taking an available seat at the bar and watching the sushi chef work.

Beside Chi-Chi, her friend sat on her backless barstool with refined posture, dressed in a blue dress just as fitted as Chi-Chi's purple one, but with a trendier cut. Eighteen reached for her simple glass of vodka and tonic, glancing over the rim, sipping and listening as Chi-Chi started talking again.

Chi-Chi slammed her cup on the bartop and glared at Eighteen. "He always does this shit. Why can't he ever listen to me?!"

"Ugh." Eighteen's glass clinked against the countertop as she set it down and turned to Chi-Chi with a roll of her eyes. "You sound like Bulma."

Chi-Chi gaped at Eighteen, wanting to counter that as she took immediate offense to being compared to Bulma. She also took offense to her relationship with her ex being compared to Bulma and Vegeta's.

"You two are always complaining about your children's lousy fathers, but I have to give you credit on one count." Eighteen picked up her glass, raising it in a mock toast. "You came to your senses and left the jerk."

As Eighteen took a hefty swig from her glass, Chi-Chi pressed her lips into a hard line, her entire body tensing. She couldn't form a retort because her emotions were all over the place. She was proud of herself for having the strength to end her unhealthy marriage. She was proud of her independence and she was actually flattered by Eighteen's high opinion of her. But Chi-Chi was also angry about being compared to a couple who went through similar issues, but still stuck it out. And she also found it all very sad. Her marriage had failed, and she was alone. Eighteen brought all those realizations to light in such few words. Her friend was always good at stating the truth without beating around the bush.

"If Krillin ever behaved half as selfishly as Goku and Vegeta," Eighteen continued, "he would have been out on his ass years ago. I won't tolerate a husband who's not supportive and reliable."

"Well," Chi-Chi found her voice again as she glared at Eighteen, "you just got lucky with that, Eighteen. When you fall in love, you don't see that person's faults. Back when we married, I thought Goku was perfect."

When Eighteen smirked and rolled her eyes, Chi-Chi knit her brows pensively. "Though in hindsight…he always chewed with his mouth full, hogged the bed, and had no plan to provide for our family, really." She narrowed her eyes at Eighteen. "But I didn't see it then; just like you don't think about how short Krillin is, or care about his lack of hair."

Eighteen laughed, shaking her pin-straight blonde locks away from her face. "I don't think Krillin is 'perfect' by any means. What I want to know, though, is what part of Goku you saw as 'perfect'. His ass?"

As Eighteen laughed, Chi-Chi felt heat rising to her face as she joined in the laughter. "Well, there was that."

"That man looks good, I'll give him that." Eighteen shrugged. "But that all disappears as soon as he starts talking. Krillin's personality adds to his appeal, unlike Goku's, which diminishes it."

"It never did for me." Chi-Chi sighed, looking wistfully towards a flirtatious couple at the end of the bar. "At least, not until we got older and he still refused to grow up."

Using the narrow red straw protruding from her glass, Eighteen stirred her ice-filled drink and scoffed. "Can we stop talking about men? This is getting me irritated, and I only have half an hour left to enjoy being out before I have to return to being a wife and mother again."

Chi-Chi smiled, looking down at her hands folded in her lap. "Right. I'm sorry, Eighteen. I know you get tired of listening to me rant."

"Meanwhile, you," Eighteen continued, withdrawing the straw from her empty glass and pointing it at Chi-Chi, "get to continue being single Chi-Chi all weekend long. You should take advantage of that."

As the sushi chef stretched across the counter, depositing a heavy, impressive display of a sushi boat in front of the women, Chi-Chi peered suspiciously at Eighteen. Her friend was giving her a mischievous look, and in combination with what she'd just said, Chi-Chi was fairly certain where this conversation was headed.

As if to confirm Chi-Chi's fears, Eighteen gave her a firm nod. "I know just what you need. It's been seven years, Chi-Chi."

"Eighteen."

"Seven years!" Eighteen raised a rigid finger to Chi-Chi's objecting tone. "Look around you. There are plenty of men here who would be drooling over you if you'd bother to look at them."

"Eighteen!"

Chi-Chi's friend seemingly ignored her while wrapping her fingers around a pair of wooden chopsticks and carefully selecting a piece of sushi from the wide variety available in their boat.

Chi-Chi leaned into Eighteen, hissing under her breath. "I am not looking for a booty call!"

Eighteen shrugged and popped the sushi in her mouth. "Fine."

She paused to chew, while Chi-Chi took the opportunity to find her own pair of chopsticks and angrily pop a piece of the tantalizing sushi into her mouth as well.

Eighteen swallowed and again hungrily eyed the sushi boat. "I'll settle for knowing you'll talk to a guy tonight. Give someone your number, at least. I've given you enough space. It's about time I give you another push."

Chi-Chi fumed and swallowed her sushi, her eyes uneasily wandering around the restaurant as Eighteen's suggestion made her painfully aware of the many dateless men in the restaurant, some attractive, some not, and most of whom did catch her gaze as she looked around. She found it intimidating, the idea of dating after so many years of marriage and subsequent solitude.

When Chi-Chi turned to Eighteen again, her cheeks were heated and her head was shaking fervently in disagreement. "I'm a mother, Eighteen! I'm not just going to pick up a random guy! What if he turns out to be a teacher or a parent from Gohan's school?"

"Then why don't we give Bulma a call? I'm sure she knows a lot of single guys that work for her father's company."

"Are you crazy?!" Chi-Chi hissed, snatching the cell phone from Eighteen's hand as she was already withdrawing it from her black leather purse at her feet. "You want Bulma to set me up?"

Eighteen groaned and rolled her eyes, holding open her designer purse for Chi-Chi to return the cell phone. "I don't know what you're so worried about. You think if Goku finds out he's going to care? I'm sure he's been out with other women since your breakup. Someone has to be dating."

Glaring at her friend who turned and nonchalantly continued eating, Chi-Chi dropped Eighteen's cell in her purse. Her eyes lowered to her lap, where she was subconsciously wringing her hands together. She didn't know why it bothered her after all this time, wondering what Goku was up to while they were separated. She knew whatever choices he made for himself now shouldn't upset her. Once she divorced him, she freed him to do whatever or be with whomever he wanted.

She knew she had that same freedom, but any past notions of moving on with someone else had always been squashed. This wasn't the first time Eighteen had pushed for her to get out in the dating world again. There had been many times. This was just the first time she was considering giving in to it.

She had a hard time picturing Goku pursuing a relationship with someone else, though. Up until Goku's return to the country a few months back, he was training on the other side of the world with the great Master Kaio and competing against famous world champions of fighting. Chi-Chi knew that with the strict discipline of a renowned master like Kaio, and Goku's one-track focus that Chi-Chi knew all too well when it came to the martial arts, women would have been the last thing on his mind at that time.

When Chi-Chi spoke again, her voice was soft, but certain. "I don't think he has."

"Yeah?" Eighteen chuckled. "What makes you think that?"

Chi-Chi gasped, looking up from her lap to see mild amusement in her friend's eyes. It seemed like Eighteen knew something about Goku she didn't. "Eighteen?"

"Look," Eighteen swiped her lips with a napkin and finished chewing her latest bite of sushi while Chi-Chi took another, "Goku's a big boy. He can go out when he wants, and so can you. You already know it didn't work out between you. You need to let the selfish jerk live his life, Chi-Chi, so you can live yours."

Chi-Chi opened her mouth to speak, but stopped when she realized what she wanted to say was pointless, and then again when she realized what she wanted to say was not something she wanted to share with Eighteen. How could she defend her thinking to a happily married woman with a young daughter and a thoughtful, considerate husband?

Chi-Chi sighed heavily. She would never admit it to anyone, but there were still times when she wanted Goku back. When they had good days, she would convince herself with some wishful thinking that he would finally grow up and take responsibility in his life. When he smiled at her, she would relive her girlish infatuation all over again. When there was prolonged distance between them, it really did make the heart grow fonder.

And then when he would make a rash, selfish decision or fail to be there when he was needed, her hopes would be crushed all over again. Chi-Chi hated to admit it, but Eighteen was right. She needed to accept that Goku was never going to change. She needed to move on and end this painful cycle. She needed to completely let go of hoping for the Goku that never really existed and never would exist.

It had been easier in those early years, when Goku lived on the other side of the world and she only saw him briefly at holiday times for the sake of the boys. Seeing him on a regular basis again ignited something in Chi-Chi that made her mourn her marriage more. With Goku being back in the boys' lives again - back in her life again – the difficulty of trying not to hold onto him, while also trying not to resent him was eating away at her.

The soothing feeling of a hand caressing her shoulder drew Chi-Chi from her thoughts as she looked up to see Eighteen gazing sympathetically at her.

Chi-Chi smiled sadly, grasping the hand at her shoulder in appreciation. "Thanks, Eighteen. You're a good friend."

Eighteen scoffed, withdrew her hand, and turned away. "Don't tell my brother that. He'll think I've gone soft."

When Eighteen cast a devious smirk over her shoulder, Chi-Chi raised a brow. "Huh?"

"That's it." Eighteen's smirk widened as she raised her chin. "I'll set you up with my brother."

Chi-Chi blinked. "The park ranger?"

"Yes, Chi-Chi." Eighteen rolled her eyes. "He's single now. You know that you need to move on. There's no room for you to argue here. He's not a stranger, and he's not involved with your son's school."

"Yes, but," Chi-Chi grimaced and fidgeted in her seat, "what would I talk about with him? Eighteen, we have nothing in common."

"How do you know that?" Eighteen countered. "You might have something in common once you start talking. You have me, Krillin, and Marron in common."

Chi-Chi shook her head, knowing in her gut that she had no interest in dating Eighteen's reclusive brother. "No. No, Eighteen!"

"I'm setting it up." Eighteen said stubbornly before taking another bite of sushi. "Date Seventeen or stand him up. It's your choice."

As Eighteen gracefully dodged the waiter's arm depositing the check between them, Chi-Chi scoffed in disbelief. "You would set your brother up on a date when he's most likely going to be stood up?"

Eighteen glanced down at the check and smiled. "Sure. He's done it to me before. If you don't go, I'd call it getting even. If you decide to show, then I'm helping out a friend. Either way, it's a win-win situation."

"Ladies!"

The loud outburst and gleeful chuckle that followed made Chi-Chi and Eighteen both grimace as Eighteen counted money from her purse and Chi-Chi reluctantly turned to the sound of the voice.

When Chi-Chi's eyes fell on the white-bearded, wrinkled face hidden behind a conspicuous pair of large sunglasses, she forced a polite smile. "Master Roshi."

Eighteen didn't even try to hide her disdain as she turned from the bar and narrowed her eyes. "Old man."

"Fancy meeting you two out here tonight!" Master Roshi chuckled again as his glasses fell to the tip of his nose, his lewd gaze panning over both of their chests. "Don't you both look lovely!"

As Master Roshi's hand extended towards them in what appeared to be an amicable gesture, but what Eighteen and Chi-Chi both knew was anything but, Eighteen harshly smacked his hand away. "What are you doing out? Isn't it past your bedtime?"

"Oh!" As Master Roshi adjusted his glasses, his white brows lifted nearly to the top of his bald head, "testy! That's alright, I like a feisty gal."

At Chi-Chi's irritated grunt and Eighteen's impatient glare, Master Roshi continued. "I had to get out of the house. The guys are playing cards and they didn't want t-" Master Roshi bit his tongue, grimacing when the women eyed him suspiciously, "well, let's just say I wanted to step out for some sightseeing, and I caught some nice sights tonight!"

When Master Roshi flashed his teeth at Chi-Chi and Eighteen, the two women exchanged a sidelong glance. The old man was harmless, they knew, but he always managed to be an irritating presence. However irritating he was though, he had also long been both of their husbands' respected martial arts master, who did impart some wisdom on them from time to time, so they both felt obligated to show the man some respect, at least until he crossed a line.

"The guys are playing cards?" Eighteen raised a brow and crossed her arms. "What about Marron? Did Krillin put her to bed?"

"Oh, yeah. She's long since asleep, Eighteen. You have nothing to worry about." Master Roshi's gaze flitted to Chi-Chi as he puffed his chest in a peacock-like display. "And how are you, young lady? Finally putting yourself out on the market again? If you're looking for someone-"

As Master Roshi invaded her personal space, Chi-Chi growled and raised a hand to slap the old man's wrinkled cheek before he could say another word of his proposal. She didn't know if her stomach could hold up to the rest of what he was about to say. She growled with irritation as she flung money on the counter to pay her bill, downed her last sip of sake, and stood from her seat while Eighteen did the same.

Master Roshi gaped and rubbed his reddened cheek as the two women brushed past him without another word, but Chi-Chi noticed her harsh reaction didn't stop the old master from trying to grab at Eighteen's ass as she passed. "Always good to see you two!"

Just as always, Master Roshi would be fine and continue with his antics the next time they saw him. But at least for tonight Chi-Chi was able to get her message across clearly to the old lecher.

With other restaurant customers gawking at their dramatic exit, Eighteen and Chi-Chi pushed their way through the crowd. They then exited the sushi bar though the swinging glass door of the restaurant front, finding relief from the congestion when they were greeted by the cool night air of the dark parking lot.

"Cigarette?" Eighteen offered, already reaching into her purse as they stepped around the corner to avoid the busy foot traffic near the restaurant's entrance.

Chi-Chi shook her head, both to refuse the offer and to toss the loose dark strands of hair out of her eyes which was blown in her face by a sudden gust of wind. Her hair was mostly up in a tight bun that night, though she was quickly regretting leaving two tendrils down when her hair blew in her face yet again. For some reason, Eighteen's perfectly straight, controlled blonde locks managed to move with the wind only slightly, falling right back into place every time the air stilled. Chi-Chi wasn't so lucky, and as Eighteen took her first puff from her cigarette, the addition of the acrid smoke blowing towards Chi-Chi didn't make the idea of hanging around outside the building any more appealing.

With an irritated scoff, Chi-Chi eyed the glowing end of Eighteen's cigarette pinched between her fingers. "I thought you quit, Eighteen."

"Yeah." Eighteen shrugged and took another drag from the cigarette. "I just felt like cheating tonight."

"Well," Chi-Chi stepped forward, her red patent heels tapping as she stepped off the curb, onto the street, "I think I'm ready to go home."

"No, you're not."

A car's engine hummed as it drove right past Chi-Chi on the street, just before Chi-Chi turned and furrowed her brows at Eighteen. Her friend was stepping a pointy-toed boot on the cigarette she'd just dropped to the ground and glaring at Chi-Chi with determination.

When she joined Chi-Chi on the street, Eighteen crossed her arms and walked side by side with Chi-Chi towards their cars, a smug smile lifting her lips.

"What?" Chi-Chi finally asked, annoyed by Eighteen's delay.

"You never talked to a guy." Eighteen lowered her chin and met Chi-Chi's gaze with a look of challenge in her eyes. "The deal was that you would."

Chi-Chi frowned. "Roshi doesn't count?"

Eighteen blew a raspberry. "No!"

"I never even-" Chi-Chi stopped objecting about her lack of agreement to Eighteen's so-called 'deal', placing her hands on her hips as she searched their surroundings in the dark parking lot.

She was going to put an end to this, and put an end to it quickly. She knew Eighteen wasn't going to back down, and neither was she. So there was only one way she knew to end this quickly so she could get home already. Her car was three cars down from their current location. Eighteen's flashy red sports car was parked next to her standard, but pristine white four-door. Beside a flashy, highly customized black SUV parked just across from where they currently stood, there was a group of men and women talking and laughing, gathering around the most loud and boisterous man in the group.

Chi-Chi cupped her hands around her mouth and called to them. "Hey, you!"

Two attractive young women continued talking to a large, rotund bald man in the group, but one woman stopped laughing to look in Chi-Chi's direction, which caused the loud man to stop talking and follow the woman's gaze. Seeing that she had a man's attention, Chi-Chi shot Eighteen a proud smirk before turning her attention to the curly-haired, brawny man whose attention she'd won.

"Did you just 'hey, you' me?" The man asked with an affronted frown. "Don't you know who I am?"

Chi-Chi stopped herself from laughing, a million smartass replies and cheesy pickup lines immediately entering her mind after that question. But she couldn't make herself do it, not even for Eighteen's sake. Still, the guy's boastful attitude almost made her want to do it out of spite. Especially since there didn't appear to be anything impressive about the guy to back that attitude. She highly doubted he was an accomplished intellectual with the way he talked, and the bushy mustache and curly chest hairs protruding from the top of his button-front shirt didn't add to his charm.

Chi-Chi flashed the man a brilliant smile. "Are you having a good night tonight?"

The man furrowed his brows, then nodded with a shrug. "Sure. You?"

"I had a great night. I'll be heading home now. You take care!"

"H-hey! Wha…" the man's voice dwindled off as Chi-Chi turned away and smiled.

From the murmurs and giggles that followed, Chi-Chi assumed the woman stole his attention again. That was just fine with her, because she was reaching her car now, and Eighteen was silently following in step.

When Chi-Chi stopped and turned to wish her friend a goodnight, Eighteen was glowering at her with one hand on her jutted hip. "Really, Chi-Chi?"

"What?" Chi-Chi giggled innocently.

Eighteen shook her head slowly. "Pa-the-tic."

Chi-Chi's posture deflated as she turned and whipped her car door open. "I just want to go home, Eighteen."

"I know. Not that I don't like having sushi and a few drinks with you every week, Chi-Chi, but it's time you start dating again. I want to hear more interesting conversation from you than gloating about your sons and bitching about your ex. I'll text you this week about your date with Seventeen."

As she slid into the seat of her car, Chi-Chi gasped at Eighteen's words, having forgotten about Eighteen's other pushy idea. "A-"

"And you thought you had me beat." Eighteen cut Chi-Chi off with a wink and a sly grin before closing Chi-Chi's door on her.

Chi-Chi fumed in her seat, turning to glare through her window at her friend who took a step back from the car to gloat at Chi-Chi's reaction. Eighteen didn't savor it long before turning to leave, making her way around her own car with a dismissive wave goodbye over her shoulder. Chi-Chi groaned to herself, reluctantly starting the car without having the last word for herself. She knew she'd meet Eighteen here again next week, like she always did. There was no real animosity between them. But now she knew this might be her last few days of being able to settle in and relax on the weekends her boys were with their father. From now on, she feared Eighteen was going to keep her weekends busy.


A demandingly loud pounding on her door was what awoke Chi-Chi the next morning. At first, she was only vaguely aware of being mysteriously roused by something that made her eyes shoot open and her heart race. But when the pounding sounded again, the cause of her altered state of consciousness was unmistakable.

With a gasp, Chi-Chi lifted he head from the pillow, taking a quick glance at the alarm clock on her nightstand before hurriedly rising from the bed. As she hurried to her slide-open closet to retrieve her robe, Chi-Chi wondered who could be so anxious to see her at eight-thirty on a Saturday morning. It was an unusual experience for her, being woken by anybody. On most days, she was up at the crack of dawn, setting to work with feeding her boys and sending Gohan to school on time. Saturday was the only day she really took to sleep in, and after her nights out with Eighteen, she usually needed those extra hours. So whoever was disturbing her now better have a good reason for it.

Then again, maybe she didn't want them to have a good reason. The last thing she needed was to wake up to an emergency - to find out something happened to one of her sons.

With her mind going in a downward spiral of horrifying thoughts, Chi-Chi shrugged into her fluffy white fleece robe and raced on bare feet from her room, tying a knot at her waist in an attempt to appear somewhat decent while answering her door in a state of undress.

Rushed as she was, Chi-Chi still had enough sense to remember to protect herself. An unmarried woman alone in a house - even in the suburbs - could never be too careful. So she took a small detour in the kitchen, while more bangs at her door made her jump as she plucked a recently washed frying pan from her drying rack. Gripping the heavy pan by the steel handle, she approached her entryway. Through the frosted glass of her front door, Chi-Chi could see the outline of a tall, fidgeting figure. She reached for the handle and unlocked the door as the figure on the other side shifted in anticipation of her greeting. With a steeling breath, Chi-Chi threw the door open and upheld her frying pan in preparation to attack.

"Chi-Chi!"

Chi-Chi gasped and stumbled back, nearly unable to stop herself from attacking as her eyes landed on Piccolo's shocked face.

As Piccolo's demeanor shifted from shock to anger, he eyed the pan in her grip and bared his teeth at Chi-Chi. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

"Wrong with me?" Chi-Chi seethed as the man blew past her and let himself into her house. "What the hell is wrong with you?!"

Piccolo ignored Chi-Chi's question as he stormed through her house, checking each room while Chi-Chi cinched together the material of her robe in her fist, set her frying pan on the counter, and angrily followed after him.

"What kind of person bangs on the door and then barges into someone's house early in the morning like this? You have to be crazy unless this is some sort of emergency!" Chi-Chi stopped following Piccolo around her house, gasping in realization. "There isn't an emergency, is there?"

Piccolo finally stopped searching once he reached the half-closed door of Chi-Chi's bedroom, seemingly satisfied once his search turned up nothing. "The boys are at their father's house?"

"Right. It's Goku's weekend." Chi-Chi huffed. "Gohan's not here."

"Good."

Chi-Chi furrowed her brows as Piccolo approached her living room, the cause for his surprise visit truly confusing her now. After taking a second to think, Chi-Chi realized Piccolo would not be the one informing her of an accident with her children. Goku would be with them, and God forbid an accident occurred that affected all three of them, Piccolo wouldn't be the next to know. She would. Besides, Piccolo would have said something by now if there was an emergency. This was something else. But if he didn't want to see Gohan, she really had no clue what this could be about.

"Piccolo?" Chi-Chi slowly sank into the soft seat of her brown sofa chair, knitting her brows as she looked up at Piccolo. "What is this about?"

Piccolo scoffed, his tone loaded with disdain before he even uttered a single syllable. "I've had enough of you and your idiot ex-husband and all your petty bullshit."

With a presence as if she were towering over him, contrary to physical reality, Chi-Chi shot to her feet and glared at Piccolo. "Excuse me?! You pull me from sleep, scare the hell out of me, and practically break down my door, just to insult me?!"

Piccolo winced for a moment before baring his teeth as he stubbornly continued. "That's right. Because you need this. Your ex needs it even more, but I'd be wasting my time trying to explain things to him, so here I am."

Chi-Chi crossed her arms and stilled, still angry at her rude guest, still self-conscious of her inappropriate appearance, but also compelled by Piccolo's preamble to hear the man out. Piccolo looked Chi-Chi in the eyes, and that serious look in his eyes spoke volumes about the importance of his message.

Chi-Chi sighed. "You're angry about our fight at Goten's birthday the other night."

"Yeah. But not because of the car or Goku allowing your son to sleep at the Briefs' house. I could care less about all that."

"Then wha-"

"You two are so locked into your own problems that you don't see what's right in front of you!" Piccolo growled in frustration and began pacing. "Gohan was trying to talk to you that night. At first I was giving him a hard time for failing to do it, but after that night, I can see why he still hasn't. It's no wonder the kid can't get his point across with you two so busy butting heads with each other."

Chi-Chi's chest heaved as her breathing became shallow and a lump formed in her throat. Whatever Gohan had to talk with them about had to be serious for Piccolo to be going to this length to address it. That knowledge immediately overwhelmed Chi-Chi with guilt. It was easy to believe that Goku was unaware of whatever was bothering Gohan, but in her case it was different. Chi-Chi always prided herself on being an attentive and doting mother. Had her issues with Goku really clouded her ability to see when her son needed her?

"Is Gohan...in trouble?" Chi-Chi swallowed hard. "Piccolo, how serious is it?"

In the mere seconds between her question and Piccolo's response, Chi-Chi's mind jumped to all the worst possible scenarios. Maybe Gohan was seriously ill. Maybe he had unprotected sex with that girl he took on a date and caught an STD. Maybe he knocked up that girl. Maybe he got into a fight and seriously hurt somebody, or worse, was going to jail for it and destroying his future. Her worries only went downhill from there. By the time Piccolo opened his mouth, Chi-Chi was certain Gohan was dying.

"He's having...girl troubles."

Chi-Chi continued holding her anticipatory breath a second longer before blinking at Piccolo. "He what?"

Piccolo grimaced as a faint blush crossed his cheeks. "I can't...it's none of my business really, but-" Piccolo cut himself off, then turned to Chi-Chi with a glare. "This kind of thing is your domain, not mine!"

Chi-Chi gaped at Piccolo, not knowing what to say. Recalling all the angst she recently suffered, just because Piccolo was overreacting to a minor issue, made her angry at first. But then, the relief of discovering that Gohan's problem was nothing in comparison to what she was imagining was massive. She could breathe again. She was still a good mother. Gohan was just as healthy, intelligent, safe, and well-adjusted as always.

Before she knew it, Chi-Chi giggled in relief. "Oh, Piccolo! Is that all? You're freaking out because my son came to you for girlfriend advice?"

Piccolo's blush became fiercer as Chi-Chi continued laughing and he tightly crossed his arms. "I'm glad you find it so funny. I don't think Gohan's amused."

Chi-Chi's laughter quickly subsided as she considered the possibilities. Piccolo's warning was still lacking specifics. Maybe it was a serious issue concerning a girl.

"He needs relationship and dating advice...and stuff." Piccolo scrunched his face as if he'd suffered a bitter taste. "And since he feels he can't talk to you or his real father, he's been coming to me about it."

Seeing Piccolo's clear discomfort with the subject, Chi-Chi felt a sudden wave of sympathy for Gohan's poor surrogate father. He never really chose that role. It was more like he fell into it. With Goku's repeated long absences while Gohan was young, and subsequent extended absences after the divorce during the years of Gohan's early adolescence, Piccolo had to step up for Gohan. Chi-Chi was just glad that Gohan had an influential mentor like him to fall back on. And she really did appreciate the fact that Piccolo was there for Gohan and his little brother. Piccolo didn't deserve to be tormented by the trying tribulations of parenthood. This was entirely Goku and Chi-Chi's burden to bear.

Piccolo met Chi-Chi's gaze as if reading her mind and gave her an affirming nod. "Discussing romance and adolescent hormones isn't my strong suit."

Chi-Chi wrinkled her nose. The idea of discussing hormonal issues with her teenage son automatically made her uncomfortable. Surely, that had to be Goku's problem. Romance and relationships with girls, she could handle. But if Gohan was having any urges...any physical issues that he needed to learn to cope with...Chi-Chi cringed. She'd be far too embarrassed to ever have a conversation like that with her son beyond preaching strict abstinence until marriage.

"What." Chi-Chi paused with a preparatory deep breath and harsh exhale. "What kinds of problems is he having with girls?"

Piccolo brought his shoulders back, his confidence returning as a taunting look crossed his face. "You'll have to ask him that. I think I've said enough."

Chi-Chi scowled, unhappy with his answer and her limited information, but she supposed Piccolo was right. Like he said, he was already more involved than he should have been. Now that he'd unloaded the burden to her, he didn't need to be any more involved with Gohan's problem. Chi-Chi wished Gohan had come to her or Goku about this before going to Piccolo. But now that he had, she knew it was time for both of them to have a talk with their son, and not just to discuss his trouble with girls. It was concerning to Chi-Chi that Gohan felt he couldn't talk to them.

Sighing, Chi-Chi stood from the couch and smoothed her robe before turning towards her kitchen. "Well, you came too early for breakfast to be ready, Piccolo, but if you'd like I can brew you some coffee."

"No need." Piccolo followed Chi-Chi towards the kitchen, but lingered at the outskirts as she began working with the coffee machine in the sun-lit room. "I have to get going. I have an aikido class to teach in an hour, but I had to stop here first. I just...couldn't let this go any longer."

Chi-Chi nodded, forming an appreciative smile as she scooped strongly-scented coffee into the machine and met Piccolo's gaze. "Thank you for coming to me, Piccolo. And for not giving my son any crude advice on women. I could only imagine what I'd be up against now if my son's martial arts master was anything like my ex-husband's."

Piccolo snorted a laugh. "Right. I think Gohan would know better than to ask that man for advice with women."

Chi-Chi laughed. "True. Thank you, really." She paused, furrowing her brows pensively as she pushed the glowing green start button on her coffee maker. "I'll talk to Gohan...and Goku."

Piccolo grunted in acknowledgement, but that was all Chi-Chi heard from him before she finally tore her eyes from the mesmerizing drip of the coffee machine to look where Piccolo had been standing and find an empty room. At the sound of her front door clicking shut, Chi-Chi closed her eyes and took a comforting whiff of the brewing, awakening coffee scent filling her home.

She would have to follow through on what she promised, for Gohan's sake. And she was sure Piccolo was just making a big deal out of nothing. The guy seemed unusually squeamish about romantic relationships. This warning shouldn't alarm her, she decided. It was most likely nothing. But if it was something, she intended to help Gohan. She would do whatever was necessary to make sure her son was well-adapted to society and emotionally well-balanced, even if it required working closely with Goku to resolve his issues.

Knowing what she had to do next, Chi-Chi reached for the phone laid on her countertop. She dialed the number quickly and braced the phone against her ear with one hand while rapping the manicured fingernails of her other hand on the countertop. After several rings, the voicemail picked up. Chi-Chi wasn't surprised. That man never answered his phone.

So when the generic message ended, she was more than ready to leave her message. "Goku, call me when you get this. I need to see you."

When she hung up the phone, Chi-Chi tensed and grit her teeth. In hindsight, she quickly realized that her message could sound alarming to Goku. It could also come across as needy or pleading. Fortunately, Goku was never one to look deeply into things. As quickly as she had tensed, Chi-Chi relaxed again. She knew Goku would return her call without making any assumptions.

Reaching for one of her coffee mugs suspended from the upper cabinets, Chi-Chi ran a hand through her hanging locks of long tousled hair and sighed. She hoped Goku's response didn't take too long. The two of them had disappointed Gohan long enough already by failing to realize when they were needed.

As Chi-Chi grabbed the carafe and poured coffee into her mug, she nodded her head decisively. As soon as she could speak with Goku alone, Chi-Chi would drop everything and do what had to be done. All she had to decide now was whether to try talking to Gohan first.

Taking a sip from the steaming cup of black coffee, Chi-Chi frowned with determination. Whatever was bothering her son, Chi-Chi felt it was a symptom of a bigger problem. Her children felt they couldn't talk to her or Goku about important issues in their lives. That was something Chi-Chi could not live with. In order to change that, she and Goku were going to have to get to the root of this problem and fix it, even if it meant working together, as they hadn't done for years.

Chapter Text

While preparing Gohan's and Goten's lunches for the week, Chi-Chi listened to some music as she worked. Her time alone in her home was always spent productively, and though she was working, she was also relaxing. This was how she often passed the time on the days she was home alone, and she never minded it. The cleaning, the laundry, the cooking - housework was a constant in her life that never changed since she was a teenager.

With her hair pulled back loosely in a ponytail, no makeup on her face, loose-fitting gray sweatpants covering her legs, a t-shirt and socks for the rest of her attire, Chi-Chi was completely comfortable as she worked in the house that Saturday afternoon. The only thing making her uncomfortable was her constant need to stare at the phone, waiting for it to ring. Every time she would look at it, Chi-Chi would quickly turn to the rhythmic distraction of her melodic pop music, to her task spread widely across her kitchen counters, in order to stop herself from waiting on him.

She'd spent enough years of her life waiting for him - waiting up at night when he'd spent extra hours training, waiting for days and months for his return when he traveled for fights, waiting for him to ask for her hand in marriage, waiting for him to grow up. Not anymore. She didn't have to wait for Goku. But it had been several hours and he still hadn't returned her call!

With a growl, Chi-Chi shook off her frustration and focused on packing all the prepared foods into the lunch bags she had placed neatly on the counters for the boys. One of her favorite choruses quickly lulled her back into an even temper as she finished and began placing the packed bags in the fridge, just before there was a precise, patient knock at her door.

Chi-Chi stilled and furrowed her brows as a gust of cold air hit her while the refrigerator door thumped closed in her face. "Now who could that be?"

As she approached the front door, Chi-Chi cocked her head curiously at the sight of two tall figures standing on the other side of the door's paned glass window. She would have been alarmed by their presence if she didn't recognize the unique silhouettes of their hair and the spikes of a shorter figure's hair bouncing in the bottom of the window frame.

Chi-Chi whipped the door open. "What are you all doing here? And what are you knockin' for?"

"Hi, Mom." Gohan smiled as he stepped his sneakers over the threshold and wrapped his sweatshirt-adorned arms around her in greeting. "Dad said you weren't expecting us, so I didn't want to just barge in."

As her casually-dressed, jeans-clad ex brushed past them, inviting himself into her home with their younger son in tow, Chi-Chi released Gohan and raised a brow. "Well, he's right. I wasn't expecting you. Is everything alright?"

"I don't know." Chi-Chi turned to see Goku looking deeply confused as he shrugged his broad shoulders at her. "Is it?"

Chi-Chi studied Goku's face as she tried to piece together where this sudden appearance and confusion were stemming from. "Your weekend isn't over yet, Goku. You still have the boys for another night."

"He knows, Mom." Gohan said as Goku was just opening his mouth to speak. "But Dad said we needed to see you before the weekend ended."

"He got your message!" Goten added, bouncing on his heels as he wrapped his warm, tiny fingers firmly around Chi-Chi's.

Gaping in realization, Chi-Chi turned her gaze to Goku's bashful grimace. "Th-that voice message? All I needed you to do was call me, Goku. You didn't need to drag the boys over here."

Goku furrowed his brows tightly in confusion. "But you said you needed to see me!"

Chi-Chi bit the inside of her cheek as she carefully contained a growl. "If you listened to the first part of the message, I asked you to call me when you got that."

Goku crossed his arms. "But what's the point of calling you if I'm going to come over anyways?"

Chi-Chi bit her lip and glared at her ex before taking a careful glance at her attentive, curiously watching sons. "Boys, did you bring your weekend reading homework?"

Gohan flushed and grimaced. "N-no. During the weekends, you see…"

"Dad said we didn't have to do it." Goten said with a smile and raise of his chin.

As Goku grimaced and met Gohan's worrisome gaze, Chi-Chi felt her blood pumping fiercely as her shoulders bunched tightly to reach her ears. Stupid, stupid man. It was amazing her sons weren't falling behind in school. Chi-Chi shook her head reprehensibly at Goku.

"Then," Chi-Chi huffed as she forced a more pleasant attitude for the benefit of her sons, "why don't you two have a snack and watch TV for a little, while I speak with your father?"

While Gohan nodded and made his way towards the living room, Goten raised his brows at Chi-Chi. "You aren't going to punish him, are you?"

"Punish him?" Chi-Chi laughed. "What makes you think I'd do that?"

"Dad's been bad."

It was Goku's turn to laugh as he ruffled his son's hair. "I didn't do anything wrong, Goten! Go ahead and have a snack. Grab me somethin' before you sit down!"

Chi-Chi crossed her arms. "Goku, this is my home, you know. The least you can do is ask."

"Sorry, Chi-Chi." Goku grimaced apologetically before meeting Chi-Chi's gaze with puppy-dog eyes. "So…I can't have something to eat?"

Chi-Chi rolled her eyes. "Of course you can. But I do have to talk to you. Goten, take what you want from the pantry, Honey. I just went shopping."

Goten beamed as he ran around the corner to the kitchen pantry door. Chi-Chi smiled fondly as he switched on the light, opened the door and ducked behind it, and then shuffled around in there, collecting crinkling bags of chips and boxes of junk food, no doubt. Then the sound of a TV commercial jingle diverted Chi-Chi's attention to the living room, where Gohan had already settled on the couch and was beginning to flip through channels with the remote in his hand.

Goten emerged from the pantry with his arms overflowing with several varieties of exactly what Chi-Chi suspected he would find. "Got it! Here, Dad."

Goku smiled as Goten lifted on his toes and pushed his chest out, attempting to offer Goku a choice of one of the many bags and boxes of food bundled in his arms. Chuckling at his son's antics, Goku plucked one large bag of potato chips from his grasp. Chi-Chi clasped her hands together as she smiled and tried not to laugh at Goten fumbling not to drop the remaining snacks.

Goku loudly tore open the vacuum sealed bag. "Thanks, Goten."

"Goten!" Gohan called. "What do you want to watch?"

As Goten turned to hurry and join Gohan on the couch, Chi-Chi turned a serious gaze on her busily-munching ex. "Goku. The reason I called is because I need to talk to you about Gohan."

Goku swallowed a mouthful of chips. "Gohan?"

Chi-Chi cringed as Goku repeated Gohan's name much too loudly, prompting their son to turn a curious, wide-eyed gaze towards them. "Dad?"

As Chi-Chi cast him an inconspicuous warning glower, Goku furrowed his brows. "N-nothing, Gohan."

Chi-Chi shifted her gaze to see Gohan blink at them, shrug, and then finally turn slowly in his seat to direct his attention to the show Goten was watching. When Gohan's eyes finally averted from them completely, Chi-Chi stepped further into the kitchen and waved for Goku to follow, then huffed in frustration and narrowed her eyes at Goku. "This is why I wanted you to call me first. I can't talk about this with the boys here."

Goku scratched his head, studying Chi-Chi's intent look, before glancing curiously at Gohan and back to Chi-Chi again. "I can't imagine what could be so bad that you can't talk in front of them. Did Gohan do somethin' wrong?"

"No..." Chi-Chi became distracted by Gohan's black eyes discreetly shifting in their direction for a moment, "I mean, I don't know...exactly."

Goku dug his hand into the potato chip bag and frowned. "If you don't know what the problem is, why don't you just talk to Gohan about it?"

When Gohan's eyes shifted towards them again, Chi-Chi grit her teeth and hissed her words at Goku. "I was going to. But not like this! Not without talking to you first, and certainly not when I'm being ambushed like this! I need to prepare myself for having...such a conversation with him."

At the thought of having any type of sex talk with her son, Chi-Chi was already blushing furiously and cringing. When Goku stopped eating and curiously tilted his head at Chi-Chi, she knew that was exactly what caught his attention. Ever since Piccolo barged into her home that morning, she'd been planning the conversation in her head and getting nowhere. She had no idea how to approach this topic with her son, and found herself hoping she could rely on Goku for a plan.

Finally, Goku shook his head and placed the half-emptied potato chip bag on the counter. "Now you're losing me, Cheech. I have no idea what trouble of Gohan's you could be embarrassed about."

Just Goku's mention of the word 'embarrassed' seemed to prompt that feeling. Chi-Chi pressed her lips together and folded her hands across her waist, suddenly feeling self-conscious about the way she was standing so unpolished and vulnerable before her ex-husband's eyes. Being without makeup and proper attire like she was didn't feel appropriate in front of him anymore.

"Gohan?" Goten's loud, curious voice made Chi-Chi gasp and turn to see that both her sons' attention was fixed on them rather than the TV. "What are Mom and Dad talking about?"

As Gohan gawked at them and shook his head with his brows furrowed pensively, Chi-Chi deliberately turned her back on them to glare at Goku. "Enough. I'll have my Dad stop by and keep the boys busy tonight. I'm coming by your house."

"M-my house? Tonight?"

"What?" Chi-Chi placed her hands on her hips. "You have other plans?"

Goku blinked rapidly, then shook his head. "N-no. I just…was supposed to have the boys still…"

"Dad!" Goku perked and looked past Chi-Chi to meet Goten's bright gaze. "You gotta come see this! It's your favorite part!"

"My favorite part?" Goku brushed past Chi-Chi, directing his eyes towards the TV screen as he walked. "From what?"

As Goku absently fell into the couch beside Gohan, immediately becoming completely absorbed in the active fight scene occurring onscreen, Gohan smiled at his father. "He's awesome, isn't he?"

When Goku made no move to return to the kitchen, or to show any sign that he was going to finish his conversation with Chi-Chi or make plans to leave her house soon, Chi-Chi waited. Then when nothing happened after a few minutes, she grunted in annoyance.

"Goku," Chi-Chi grumbled and crossed her arms as she made her way to stand behind the couch where Gohan and Goku both sat with their gazes locked on the TV in front of them, "aren't you forgetting something?"

Goku didn't respond. Instead, he and their sons remained wrapped up in the movie on TV while Chi-Chi fumed silently at the back of Goku's head, until she finally growled and flicked him in the ear.

"Ow! Yeah. Don't worry." Goku waved a hand over his shoulder. "I'll come - I mean - you'll come over."

Gohan cast a curious glance at his mother, to which Chi-Chi frowned and shook her head before glaring down at the top of Goku's head. "You bet I will. You better be there."

"Mom, are you going to watch with us?" Goten asked hopefully, scooting against the arm of the sofa to offer his mother plenty of space beside him on the couch.

Chi-Chi opened her mouth to refuse – the movie was one she'd seen too many times already, as it was one of Goku's favorites when they were married – but when her eyes landed on her son's adorable, hopeful gaze, she couldn't just say no. Instead, she smiled at him and simply shook her head.

At Goten's disappointed pout, Goku's body shifted as he turned to look at Chi-Chi behind him. "C'mon, Cheech! You love this movie!"

"Yeah, Mom." Gohan said with his gaze fixed on the screen. "Take a break from whatever you were doing and watch with us."

Chi-Chi clenched her teeth as she looked at the back of Gohan's head, her body trembling with nerves just at the thought of talking about anything alone with him right now. She knew now that it was a good thing she and Goku were going to talk before Goku's weekend was over. She still had no idea what to say to Gohan about this girl issue. When Gohan glanced over his shoulder with an impatient frown, Chi-Chi grimaced at being caught staring intently at him.

"You don't mind me sticking around here for a while…do you?" Goku's wary tone caught Chi-Chi by surprise, causing her to move around the couch to meet Goku's gaze. "I just figured, since you want to talk later, maybe I can stick around to spend more time here with the boys until your dad gets here. Now that we're all here already…and everything."

"Dad," Goten hissed, "if you don't stop talking, you're going to miss the movie!"

Chi-Chi smiled at Goku, her smile only widening as Goku returned the smile. His transparent concern for her feelings, for her need to spend as much time as possible with her sons, was so genuine, even if he didn't say it. She was sure he had other things he could be doing with them before the evening, but he was choosing to stay there because he didn't want to leave her out. Goku could be considerate when he wanted to. She'd almost forgotten about that aspect of their relationship. She guessed she thought it died with the divorce.

"Okay. I'll watch with you for a little bit." Chi-Chi took the seat beside Goten, enjoying the way he beamed at her and immediately cuddled into her lap. "But I have more work around here to do, so don't expect me to stay until the end."

Goten leaned across Chi-Chi's lap, digging his elbow into her thigh as he shoved a hand into the box of crackers he'd propped open on the table. "What kind of work?"

Chi-Chi shifted Goten into a more comfortable position and giggled. "The usual kind, silly. Laundry, cleaning, cooking…"

"Mmm." Goku rubbed his stomach and smiled. "Say, Chi-Chi…"

Needing to push her son's wayward spikes of black hair out of her face which blocked her view, Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes at Goku. "Yes, Goku? Let me guess. You want to stay for dinner?"

Goku beamed a toothy grin. "If you don't mind."

"That's the real reason you invited me to join in movie-watching with you, isn't it?"

"Huh?" Goku's eyes bulged in alarm. "No. Nu-uh! Really, Chi-Chi. I-"

Chi-Chi laughed. "Relax, Goku. I'm messing with you. I know why you did it."

As Goku smiled in relief, Chi-Chi smiled warmly back at him. Even with the sounds of crashes, kicks and screams resounding from the television, all Chi-Chi could focus on were Goku's stunning eyes fixed on hers. She really wished things had worked out between them. Now, if anything, at least they could still share moments like this. It was just nice to know he still cared about her feelings, as rarely as he showed it. When Chi-Chi refocused her gaze on the television screen, she smiled at the familiar scene of the heroine of the movie kicking some ass.

"Hey, Goten, she's Mom's favorite," Gohan said, before inclining his chin towards Chi-Chi, "right?"

Chi-Chi breathed in fascination as she watched the way the woman moved with such amazing form that no matter how many men approached her from any angle, with any weapon, she was ready to take them out without taking a single hit.

"Yeah." Chi-Chi smiled and relaxed into the cushy sofa, stroking Goten's scalp as he settled into her lap and she settled in to enjoy the movie. Goku was right. She did love this movie. She'd just forgotten.


By the time Chi-Chi's father arrived at the house, the movie was long over, Goku and Goten had started watching cartoons together, Gohan had gone to his room to do some internet research for a class project, and Chi-Chi was putting the finishing touches on her last-minute pasta dinner she quickly whipped up for her unexpected, but pleasant company. Ox sat himself at the kitchen table in silence and looked around the house, fondly taking in the scene around him while Chi-Chi started delivering the preliminary dishes to the table.

"Goten," Chi-Chi said as she set a plate before her father with a smile on her face, "please help me set the table."

"But Mom-"

The succinct cessation of comedic crashing noises and hollers from the TV prompted Chi-Chi to shift her gaze towards the living room, where Goku was placing the remote on the coffee table. "Show's over, squirt. Do what your mother said."

Chi-Chi's lip twitched into an appreciative smile as she met Goku's gaze, before returning her attention to her task in the kitchen, with Goten following on her heels.

"What do we need, Mom?"

"Napkins, forks, and glasses, Goten. How many are we?"

As Chi-Chi turned, offering Goten a stack of glasses, Goten's eyes drifted towards the ceiling as his lips moved in a silent count. "Ffffive?"

"Yes," Chi-Chi smiled as Goten beamed and took the glasses into his arms, "so after you finish with those glasses, you can count out the rest while I get this food off the stove."

"The sauce smells great, Chi-Chi." Goku said as he stood from the couch to hurriedly join Ox at the table. "I really miss your cooking."

Chi-Chi's breath hitched and her hand froze in the midst of ladling a hearty scoop of red pasta sauce into a serving bowl. The metal spoon tilted as her grip loosened, letting the steaming red, clumpy liquid slowly drip from its spout before Chi-Chi tightened her grip around it and refocused on her task.

She wouldn't let Goku's words go to her head. He didn't mean anything by that beyond exactly what he'd just said - he missed her cooking. He didn't mean he missed living here, he didn't mean he missed the everyday of being together as a family, he didn't mean he missed Chi-Chi. He missed her cooking. Goku was much too literal to mean anything deeper than that. Yet, when Chi-Chi finished filling the bowl and caught her father's gaze across the distance of the dining room and kitchen, she could see by his smile that he was looking deeper into the meaning of Goku's words.

"Goten," Chi-Chi gave her son a push as soon as he returned to the kitchen empty-handed from his completed table-setting task, "why don't you let Gohan know that dinner's ready and wash your hands?"

"Okay, Mom!"

"So, Chi-Chi," Ox smiled widely as he watched Goten scamper down the hallway, while Chi-Chi skirted around the counter with the filled bowl of pasta sauce in her hands, "why was it that you needed me to stay with the grandkids tonight?"

"Chi-Chi's coming to my place for a while, Ox."

Ox blinked at Goku. "Is that so?"

"Yeah." Goku said, oblivious to the way Ox smiled at Chi-Chi as she set the bowl on the table, meeting her father eye to eye. "We need to have a talk without the boys around."

"You do?" Ox laughed heartily and rubbed his hands over his robust stomach. "Well, glad to see you two are finally working things out."

Goku braced both hands behind his head and leaned back casually in his seat. "Working what things out? You know what this is about, Ox?"

"Nobody is working anything out." Chi-Chi spoke through clenched teeth and glared at her father as she retreated back into the kitchen. "Drop it, Dad."

"Not working anything out?" Goku complained as his gaze shifted to Chi-Chi, who was scooping loads of pasta in a bowl with more force than necessary. "Then what's the point of you coming to my house, Chi-Chi? Why'd you even call me?"

Chi-Chi growled at her father's sly grin as she flung a final heap of spaghetti into the pasta bowl. "Will you shut up, Goku?! You're only making it worse!"

Goku blinked and slowly lowered his hands to his sides. "What did I say?"

Ox smiled and shrugged as Goten returned to the kitchen waving his moist, clean hands and Gohan following closely behind.

"Sorry I've been hiding out all afternoon." Gohan said with a sheepish smile as he slid into the seat beside his grandfather. "I...had a lot of work to do."

"Mmm." Chi-Chi hummed and narrowed her eyes at her older son as she returned to the kitchen to retrieve the bottle of wine she'd be serving with dinner. "Is that really all you have to tell us, Gohan?"

"What?"

"There's not some other reason you're spending so much time on the computer lately?" Chi-Chi said as she poured the wine into the adult glasses at the table. "Maybe you're using it to talk to girls?"

Gohan's eyes went wide as Goten, Goku and Ox all looked at him curiously. "N-no!"

"Oh yeah!" Goku said in realization. "How was your date with that girl - what was her name - Angel?"

"Angela." Gohan rubbed the back of his head and pursed his lips pensively. "I guess it was all right, up until the end."

"Goku!" Chi-Chi admonished as she placed the wine bottle on the table and finally joined everyone else in taking a seat. "You're just now asking Gohan how it went? He went on that date almost two weeks ago!"

Goku laughed. "Yeah! I guess I forgot about it!"

Chi-Chi scowled and closed her eyes as she shook her head in disbelief. "What kind of a father are you? Take an interest in your son's life!"

"Mom," Gohan smiled and flapped his hand to dismiss Chi-Chi's concern, "Dad asks me about school all the time. He just forgot about the date with Angela, that's all."

Chi-Chi blinked, her mouth slowly opening in awe before she looked curiously to Goku. "You ask Gohan about his school work?"

Chi-Chi processed that amazing news as she took her first sweet sip of wine. Goku never took an interest in his own schoolwork, let alone Gohan's when he was younger. For him to be taking an interest now, that was a real improvement for Goku.

"Uh." Goku stared at Chi-Chi before glancing at Gohan's encouraging nod. "Yeah."

Chi-Chi smiled as she settled her glass on the table. "Well, that's much more important. Besides, it didn't work out with that girl anyway, right, Gohan?"

"No." Gohan frowned as he accepted the pasta bowl his grandfather passed over and started doling it into his plate beside his meat. "She went home angry because she thought I had another girlfriend."

Goku laughed. "That's girls for you, Gohan! They can get really weird sometimes."

Chi-Chi glared at Goku, past the table full of hands busily trading bowls. "And what is that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing!" Goku grimaced apologetically, but then cupped his hand over the side of his mouth as he stage-whispered to Gohan, "see what I mean?"

When her family started laughing, Chi-Chi met Goku's gaze with a devious smirk. "You'd better watch it, Goku. Pretty soon, there won't be anyone around for you to hide behind when you make comments like that."

As Goku's eyes widened in terror, everyone else laughed again. Chi-Chi joined them in the laughter as she finished fixing her plate and took another sip of her red wine before contently indulging in her meal. Her pasta sauce was delicious.


By the end of dinner, Goku had eaten more than his fill, and Chi-Chi was relieved she'd made what she thought would be more than enough, because even then, she didn't have any leftovers. Goten went to bed tired as soon as dinner ended, while Gohan insisted he needed to finish what he started on the computer.

That left Ox with not much of a reason to stick around, but Chi-Chi asked him to anyways, just to be sure Gohan didn't start getting nosy about what her and Goku were up to and try to sneak off to his dad's house. She hoped her children weren't getting the wrong idea about this. This had nothing to do with her and Goku. Eighteen was right, after all. Chi-Chi had to let go of any thoughts of reconciliation. That just wasn't going to happen.

But she knew how children's imaginations worked. Hell, she had a fantasy as a child that her mother would come home, and it would turn out that her mother had always been alive, just away for one reason or another. But her mother was dead, and Gohan and Goten's parents were divorced. Sometimes, reality was hard to swallow. She didn't like her children suffering that bitter pill day after day, but unfortunately they had to, just like she did.

When Chi-Chi stepped outside with Goku, after giving Goten a final tuck-in and assuring Gohan she'd be back soon, she turned to Goku hesitantly at the doorstep. "So..."

"You wanna take Nimbus?" Goku offered, tossing and tightly grasping the keys in his hand as if he were excited about the concept.

"Nimbus?" Chi-Chi scoffed. "I thought you gave it to Gohan."

"Yeah, but we drove it here and Gohan won't need it again before we come back." Goku advanced towards the car as if it had already been decided. "It's been so long since I've taken you for a ride in Nimbus! Don't you miss it?"

"Ah-" With a sharp shake of her head, Chi-Chi snapped her mouth shut and furrowed her brows as she focused her gaze on the impressive yellow hot rod Goku was approaching, parked directly in front of her.

It was true that she hadn't been in Nimbus in a long time. Back when she and Goku were dating, she was the only one who really had the pleasure of riding Nimbus with him. Sure, he'd take Krillin and Bulma somewhere every once in a while, but it was never the same for them as it was for Chi-Chi, and she knew it. When she rode in Nimbus with Goku, she truly enjoyed the ride. She enjoyed clinging onto his arm from the passenger side, assisting with the sticky stick shift, and even enjoying the daredevil moves Goku would make when driving the thing like the reckless young fool he was. She guessed...she did miss that, maybe a little.

Goku turned, read the look in Chi-Chi's eyes, and smiled as he opened his door. "Let's go."

Making her way to the passenger side door, Chi-Chi lifted her eyes past the streetlights on her block, to the starry sky above, and took a deep breath. She didn't know how this was going to play out. She didn't know how they were going to handle Gohan's issues, or even if she would be able to relay to Goku what Piccolo told her in a way that Goku would understand. The only thing she knew so far, was that she was already enjoying Goku's company more than she should have been. That had to stop.

Chi-Chi forcefully reminded herself, as she lowered her gaze, pulled on the creaking metal door handle and fell into the car's worn leather seat, that this sweet man was the same bastard who left his family behind for some great training opportunity and didn't bother to fight her when she asked for a divorce. All those years ago, he simply resigned to sign those papers and stay out of her life, not bothering to return from his side of the world until years later. Yes, that was the man Goku was, and no amount of charm or sweetness could accommodate for that behavior.

Chi-Chi realized keeping that in mind would start the ride to Goku's house on a tense note for her, but it was better than the alternative of allowing herself to be disillusioned with her ex-husband again.

Chapter Text

When Chi-Chi closed the car door and turned a glare at the driver turning the key to the ignition and starting the noisy engine, Goku looked at her in alarm. "What?"

"Nothing." Chi-Chi turned to focus her anger through the windshield, towards her garage door. "Just drive."

Goku eyed Chi-Chi warily before looking over his shoulder and grabbing the steering wheel. "Okay."

Chi-Chi pursed her lips as she fumed to herself with thoughts of her last years of marriage, crossing her arms in the seat and refusing to look at Goku as the car backed out the driveway. She remained that way as they drove out of her neighborhood in silence. Of course, as they neared their destination, Chi-Chi began to realize how long it had been since she'd seen Goku's house. Originally his late grandfather's house, the place Goku now called home was one Chi-Chi recalled as a tiny abode with only two bedrooms and one bath, way out in the sticks.

As she tried to remember the place as she left it - the red front door, the tiny archaic outhouse in the yard, the tatami mats on the ground and Goku's simple bamboo futon - she also remembered Goku had started renovations and expansion on the place when he moved back there after the divorce.

When the flashing of passing streetlights stopped skipping across Chi-Chi's lap, she realized they had reached the point past the suburbs, and were nearing Goku's house.

The darkness and isolation would be discomforting for some, but to Chi-Chi, it was calming. As the artificial lights and population dwindled away from them, the dull starlight took their place, while the sounds of frogs and crickets and the smells of fresh forest air pervaded Chi-Chi's senses from the open windows of Goku's car.

Yes, she missed riding in Nimbus. It was freeing, being a passenger in that car, so out in the open, so close to nature, even while in the comforting embrace of a soft worn leather seat. Maybe she would take it for a drive herself someday.

"Chi-Chi."

Chi-Chi stiffened at Goku's unexpected address, though she realized she should have expected it after how long they'd ridden in silence. He never was one to stay quiet for long.

"If you want to drive Nimbus back, you can. Even though my weekend isn't over, I won't be taking the boys back here. I mean, I can drive you home if you don't want to drive after that wine, but I'm just saying-"

"Are you sure?" Chi-Chi wrung her hands together in her lap and viewed the dense trees by the side of the road out her window. "That's not fair to you."

"No." Goku sighed. "But Goten's already asleep, and they're going back to your house tomorrow anyways. There's no point in disturbing them more than we have to."

"No." Chi-Chi sighed and finally turned to offer Goku a small smile. "I'm sorry, Goku. I wasn't trying to steal your time with them by calling you."

Goku shrugged. "I'm the one who jumped the gun and came to your house. Maybe I should have just called you back."

"Still," Chi-Chi shrugged sheepishly, "I'm glad you came over."

Goku raised his brows and met Chi-Chi's gaze, seemingly surprised and touched by her heartfelt admittance. With a sharp intake of breath, he turned his gaze to the road, focusing on the winding path he had to navigate as he approached the driveway of his home. When Chi-Chi saw a smile crossing his face, she had to turn away, again shaking her head and firmly reminding herself of Goku's many shortcomings and the purpose of this visit.

"Well," Goku breathed deeply as the car came to a halt, "we're here."

"Yeah."

As they sat in the purring car, Chi-Chi stared at the familiar, yet foreign sight of Goku's home straight in front of her. It had been a place she knew well in the earliest years of their relationship, which held many special memories for her. She almost wondered how Goku could live there, until she realized Goku probably felt the same way about her staying in their family home. Still, heartwarming memories crossed her mind at the sight of the place, whether she wanted to relive them or not. Just pulling into the driveway reminded her of the giddy excitement she would feel when coming to see Goku. The oak tree in the front yard reminded her of the time his grandfather was away and they'd had their first heated make out session, leaning against that tree. The unchanged front door reminded her of Goku's youthful face smiling brightly at her from the other side every time it opened. Dammit. They should have done this at a public place. She wondered what she was she thinking, coming here.

After Goku shut off the engine, a heavy silence filled the car.

Chi-Chi cleared her throat. "Looks like you've done a lot to the place."

In spite of all the familiar sights, there were also many new changes Chi-Chi could see, even from the driveway. The house expanded several feet to the right, with an expansion that boasted additional windows and living space. Chi-Chi already knew that was the extra bedroom Goku had spoken of back when Goten grew big enough to need his own space and Gohan couldn't share his room anymore. Additionally, there was a newer oak tree beside their oak tree, smaller and greener, but just as healthy and thriving as everything else in Goku's yard. There was a chimney spouting from Goku's roof, which hadn't been there before. And the driveway was paved, where it had only been coated in dirt and gravel in the past.

"Yeah." Goku chuckled sheepishly as he swung his door wide open and stepped one foot out. "I guess it's been a while since you've been here, huh?"

Chi-Chi pressed her lips together and opened her door. "Mm-hm."

She hurried out of the car, swinging the door closed and interlacing her fingers tightly at her waist. Focusing her gaze on her feet, Chi-Chi waited for Goku to lead the way inside. She was suddenly extremely uncomfortable being here. Being here and hardly recognizing the place made her feel guilty, as it forced her to realize that she never once picked the boys up from Goku's house when it was time to trade custody, and never dropped them off there, either. He usually went out of his way to come to her house, though it was a good distance from his, or they would trade off at other locations like friends' houses. Goku never even once suggested Chi-Chi come to his house to retrieve the boys, and Chi-Chi never thought to offer.

"Are you coming in?" Goku asked, prompting Chi-Chi to gasp and look up from the cold cement. "Or did you come all this way to talk in the driveway?"

As Goku laughed and led the way to the front door, Chi-Chi laughed at herself and followed after him. She couldn't believe how uptight she was being. This was Goku. She could talk to him easily.

When Goku turned the key in the door and opened it while placing the key back in his jeans pocket, Chi-Chi couldn't help her gaze from following his hand to the stretching pocket, which led to a brief appreciation of the light wash of the pulling and folding denim at his hips, then of the curves and divots of the lines of those jeans and the way they were fitting Goku's hips, waist and rear as he stepped forward and moved all those flexing muscles together beautifully.

"Well, welcome back...I guess." Goku's voice prompted Chi-Chi to hurriedly snap her eyes up towards his as he looked back at her with a hesitant smile. "Come on in."

"Thanks." Chi-Chi ducked her head as she stepped over the threshold, into the dark entryway which was quickly illuminated when Goku switched on the light.

"Do you want," Goku awkwardly rubbed the back of his head, "...something?"

Chi-Chi raised a brow. "What do you have?"

"Ummm..." Goku turned his head towards the kitchen as if hoping something would pop up and answer Chi-Chi's question.

Chi-Chi placed her hands on her hips. "What've you been feedin' the boys?"

"I have food." Goku said defensively. "I was just going to offer you a drink...if I had something."

A drink. That didn't seem appropriate for the context of this conversation. Chi-Chi and Goku both already had a glass of wine with dinner, and the idea of drinking more or even something stronger with her ex almost seemed scandalous in Chi-Chi's mind.

As Goku spun towards the kitchen as if preparing to search, Chi-Chi grabbed him by the arm. "Goku. I don't know what you think this is. I'm just here to talk about Gohan."

"I know that." Goku furrowed his brows. "What did you think I was thinking?"

Chi-Chi shook her head and released Goku's arm. "Nothing. Don't worry about it. I don't need a drink."

"So," Goku made an invitational gesture towards the matching blue couches in the tiny living room as he headed to take a seat there himself, "what's the problem with Gohan?"

Chi-Chi huffed and followed Goku into the living room, taking a seat on the opposing couch. "Piccolo confronted me this morning. He told me Gohan has been coming to him lately about things he should really be coming to us about."

Goku raised his brows and propped his arm casually over the back of his sofa. "Like what?"

"Goku, has Gohan ever...has he talked to you about- I mean, have you talked to him about sex at all?"

Goku snickered. "Ah, Chi-Chi!"

"Goku, I'm serious!"

"Yeah. I mean, I guess it's been a while, but we've had 'the talk'. Why? Have you?"

"Me?" Chi-Chi's eyes bulged before she vigorously shook her head. "No! I wouldn't know what to say."

"It's not a big deal, Chi-Chi. I just told him that he'll be feeling things soon and sex feels really good, but he needs to use condoms or the girl can get pregnant."

"You what?!"

As Chi-Chi furiously lunged at him across the coffee table, Goku flinched and shielded himself defensively with his arms. "What? I just told him the truth!"

Chi-Chi growled as she repeatedly smacked Goku across the head and his outstretched arms. "You practically gave him permission to have sex, you idiot!"

"Ow, Chi-Chi!" Goku clenched his eyes shut and turned away as Chi-Chi landed one last satisfying smack across his chest. "You don't need to be so rough!"

"Yes, I do! Our son's going to become a delinquent, thanks to you!"

"No, he's not!" Goku fervently shook his head at Chi-Chi's furious glare. "Gohan was real embarrassed about that talk. He told me he wasn't having sex."

Chi-Chi's chest heaved as she tried to quell her fury. Goku was probably right about Gohan, but it was no thanks to Goku that their son was safely untainted by some teenage hussy. Geez, maybe that was exactly the problem he was going to Piccolo about. Maybe some loose teenager was trying to force something on him.

Chi-Chi sat back on the couch right beside Goku and crossed her arms. "If I find condoms in his room, Goku, it's your ass."

Goku blinked rapidly. "What? Why?"

Chi-Chi growled. "Let's just decide what to do about Gohan so I can go home!"

"I still don't understand what the problem is." Goku complained with a frustrated pout as Chi-Chi adjusted into a more comfortable position to face him on the couch. "What did Gohan say to Piccolo?"

"I don't know, exactly. But doesn't it bother you that he's talkin' to him and not us, Goku? We're his parents!"

"I guess." Goku shrugged, then wrinkled his nose. "Wait. Gohan talked to Piccolo about sex stuff?"

As Chi-Chi nodded, Goku sputtered with laughter. "What was he thinkin'?!"

"It's not funny, Goku! If Gohan's been followin' your advice, he could have a pregnant girlfriend or something more serious."

Goku stopped laughing. "How? If he followed my advice, he would've used a condom."

Immediately, Goku raised his arm in a lightning-fast motion to shield himself from the smack that came from Chi-Chi. Still, she hit his forearm pretty hard.

"Ow!"

"We need to talk to him, Goku. And I mean we, because I'm just not comfortable talking about sex with our son."

"Are you sure this is about sex?" Goku rubbed his reddened forearm and furrowed his brows at Chi-Chi. "I still find it hard to believe Gohan would talk about it, let alone with Piccolo."

"Well, it's definitely about a girl."

"Ah! So then that's it! I'll bet it's that Videl girl in his class."

Chi-Chi blinked. "Videl?"

"Yeah. She's been bossing him around a lot lately." Goku snickered. "I think she likes him."

Chi-Chi placed her hands on her hips. "How come I've never heard about this girl?"

"How would I know?"

Chi-Chi clenched her teeth. "So, you're fairly certain this is the girl Gohan's been talking about, not the Angela who he dated?"

"Nah." Goku shook his head as he spread his arms widely across the top of the couch. "He hasn't said a word about her, but he's been complaining about Videl bothering him for the past couple weeks."

"Wait. Gohan said Angela dumped him because she thought he had another girlfriend. Do you think-"

Goku shook his head. "I don't think Gohan realizes Videl likes him yet. He thinks they're just friends...or something."

"But then...why didn't he tell me about her?"

Lowering her gaze to her lap as she processed this new information, Chi-Chi sighed. If a girl at school was bothering Gohan, and even Goku could pick up on the fact that she likes him, then it would appear that way to Piccolo for sure. So maybe that's all this really was. Of course, if this Videl girl was trying to push Gohan into a fast-moving relationship as Chi-Chi feared, she'd have to give that girl a piece of her mind herself. No one bullied her children into making decisions they didn't want to make on their own.

It bothered Chi-Chi that Gohan was hiding this from her, when he'd even talked to both Goku and Piccolo about the girl. Sure, his mother wasn't a male like them, and she could be protective, but Gohan shouldn't have felt the need to keep the girl a secret from Chi-Chi. Unless he really didn't trust her with that knowledge. Maybe he thought she would do something terrible to embarrass him. With her eyes burning at the painful realization, Chi-Chi clenched her fingers tightly into the soft fleece fabric in her lap.

"Hey." A firm, warm hand gently caressed Chi-Chi's shoulder, prompting her to look up at Goku's concerned visage. "You okay?"

"I think," Chi-Chi's eyes darted to and from Goku's face as she swallowed hard, "I think I've been a terrible mother. My son doesn't trust me anymore!"

"No!" Before she knew it, Goku wrapped his arms firmly around Chi-Chi and pulled her in for a tight hug and spoke into her ear. "No way! You're a great mother. Maybe Gohan didn't want to tell you 'cause he trusts you too much."

Chi-Chi wiped away a tear that nearly fell from her watering eyes as she pulled out of Goku's embrace to look into his warm black eyes. "What do you mean?"

"Well," Goku rubbed the back of his head and chuckled sheepishly, "if I know you, Chi-Chi, you'd be all over that girl after hearing how Gohan complains about her pushiness. I mean, anything that gets in the way of his success-"

Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes. "Are you going to start complaining about me stopping you from training him when he was young again?"

"It's not like I wanted to train him all the time!"

"No. Just whenever he was neck-deep in his studies." Chi-Chi scoffed. "Anyways, I don't want Gohan to feel he needs to hide anything from me."

"Then maybe you can let this go."

"What?"

"I mean, you're not going to do anything to the girl if Gohan keeps talking to her, are ya?"

Chi-Chi furrowed her brows and shook her head. "Why would I-"

"Because from the way Gohan describes her...uh...she reminds me of you in a lot of ways."

Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes at Goku's hesitant expression. "How so?"

"She... seems to know exactly what she wants," Goku smiled nervously as Chi-Chi's eyes narrowed further, "and…she…scares him sometimes."

"Really?" Chi-Chi bared her teeth and leaned her face aggressively into Goku's so he could see how angry he was making her. "Is that what you think of me? You think I'm a scary, pushy bitch?!"

If Goku thought insulting her and warning her that this girl might actually be able to intimidate her was going to make her back down from protecting her son, he had another thing coming. No one was going to tell her it was time to back down, especially not her ex or some teenage little girl.

"No!" Goku's eyes bulged as Chi-Chi's nose pressed against his. "That's not what I'm sayin'! I-I think it's hot!"

Chi-Chi's eyes widened. "Eh?"

"What I...mean is," Goku's pupils visibly dilated as he panted, his warm breath ghosting over Chi-Chi's cheeks in their painfully close proximity, "I think Gohan probably likes her, if he's like me."

Chi-Chi blinked, slowly pulling back from her face to face contact as she read the uneasiness in Goku's darting eyes. As soon as he had some room to himself, Goku shifted uneasily in his seat, and shifted again, until finally settling on crossing his calf across the opposite leg as he settled his body facing his arm of the couch.

With a nervous cough, he turned his head to look towards Chi-Chi without meeting her gaze. "So, Gohan might be worried for her...or worried she might upset you. That's all."

Chi-Chi's eyes drank in Goku's form, the way every inch of his muscular body nervously tapped and twitched as he avoided eye contact with her and scratched his cheek. He looked like he was really feeling uncomfortable, and in all the time they were married, hardly anything ever made Goku uncomfortable.

Chi-Chi felt the air thicken around her. Goku had just admitted that he thought Chi-Chi was hot when doing things like she was doing just now. Was he turned on by her domineering behavior? By the way his face flushed and he seemed so suddenly nervous around her, she'd have to think so. It all made sense now. All the years they were married, and now there was finally an explanation for why Goku did so many things to piss her off. It suddenly made sense. It was no wonder they had great makeup sex after fights! He was turned on every time he made her furious!

Chi-Chi took a deep breath to fight the heat that was rushing to her face, and then shifted uneasily on the soft, caving couch cushion below her. She needed to refocus on Gohan. So what Goku was saying then, was not that she should lay off the girl because their personalities would clash –Did Goku really like when she screamed in his face like that?

Chi-Chi shook her head and refocused. She realized she would clash personalities with a girl so much like herself. But Goku was trying to tell her that Gohan maybe really liked Videl, enough to shield her from Chi-Chi's protectiveness. It wasn't too far-fetched, thinking Gohan admired the same qualities in women as his father did - qualities his own mother exhibited. Like how Goku was still turned on right now, wincing and refusing to meet her gaze with burning red ears that Chi-Chi could see, even when he was still turned away from her. Chi-Chi had to say something to ease the tension.

Her lip twitched into a hesitant smile. "If Gohan really likes this girl, I guess we wouldn't want to be the ones to mess up his chances with her."

Goku turned a relieved smile on Chi-Chi. "Really?"

Chi-Chi nodded and subconsciously backed away from Goku, feeling too close for comfort when she knew Goku was feeling hot for her only moments ago. "But if we're backing off, what should we do to find some way to let Gohan know he can talk to us?"

Goku's eyes averted pensively towards the ceiling. "I dunno. Play it by ear?"

"Play it by ear?" Chi-Chi repeated disbelievingly. "This is our son's well-being at stake, Goku."

"Relax, Chi-Chi."

"Don't tell me to relax!" Chi-Chi snapped, inadvertently making another aggressive move towards a flinching Goku. "We need a plan."

"Gohan's a smart kid." Goku raised his hands in a placating gesture. "If he needs to talk to us, I'm sure he will."

"Well," Chi-Chi looked towards the ceiling with thoughts of just how smart Gohan was, "I guess he's already been talking to you about Videl. Maybe you should just let him know not to bother Piccolo about her anymore."

"Or…maybe you should."

"Me?"

"Sure." Goku shrugged. "You're the one Piccolo came to about this, and it would give you the chance to bring it up. Maybe then Gohan'll tell you about Videl."

Chi-Chi gasped. "Goku, you're a genius!"

Goku rubbed his forefinger proudly below his nose. "Yeah. I know."

"Now I can finally talk to Gohan! And I don't have to worry about any awkward sex talk!"

"Right."

"But you," Chi-Chi prodded her finger into Goku's chest, "still need to talk to him about sex."

Goku flinched. "Huh?"

"Tell him he's too young to be thinkin' about such things, Goku!"

"That's kind of pointless, isn't it? If someone told me not to do somethin', I'd just do it anyways." Goku narrowed his eyes at Chi-Chi. "Besides, isn't that hypocritical? We were doin' it-"

"I know!" Chi-Chi grimaced and pounded a fist into her lap. "But Gohan doesn't have to know that."

"Chi-Chi, we were only eighteen when he was born."

"Which is older than seventeen!"

Goku blinked. "Barely."

Growling in frustration, Chi-Chi turned away from Goku. He might've had a point, but she just couldn't accept the fact yet that her little boy was growing up. At the very least, he had to think that his parents disapproved of sexual activity before marriage.

"You still want me to tell Gohan he's too young?"

"Yes!" Chi-Chi turned and grasped Goku forcefully by the collar of his t-shirt. "That's doing your job as a father, Goku. You do that, and I'll talk to him about comin' to us instead of Piccolo."

Goku blinked, then smiled as Chi-Chi released her hold on him. "Great! That shouldn't be hard."

Chi-Chi sighed and straightened her sweatpants, which had twisted across her taut waist with all of her agitated movements. "Okay. So Gohan should be fine."

"Of course he's fine!" Goku laughed and reclined in his seat, propping his feet on the table with his hands braced behind his head again. "I don't know what you and Piccolo were so worried about!"

Chi-Chi sneered at Goku's dirt-caked boots propped on the table. If this was her house, she would be yelling at him to take his feet down. But this was Goku's house, and as much as it bothered her, she wouldn't tell him what to do in his own house. That didn't stop it from bothering her, though.

"Oh!" Goku winced as he turned his gaze from Chi-Chi to his feet, before pulling his feet back to the floor. "Sorry, Chi-Chi."

Surprised that Goku actually remembered that pet peeve and was willing to take his feet down on her account, Chi-Chi smiled. "There's no reason to apologize, Goku."

Goku frowned and lowered his hands to rest on the couch cushions at his sides. "I guess not. It's weird, though, having you here again."

Chi-Chi felt a smile slowly spread across her face, before she released a short giggle with a shrug. "It is...a little awkward."

"Really?" Goku closed the distance between their couch cushions and beamed at Chi-Chi. "You feel it too?"

Chi-Chi flinched at the surprise of Goku's loud exclamation and sudden movement. Then she felt heat rise to her face as she buried her chin in her shoulder to avert her gaze from Goku's very close, very exuberant smile. But to satisfy his question, she curtly nodded and let out a small hum of agreement.

"I thought it was just me!" Goku laughed as he stood from the couch. "It doesn't seem so bad once you've said it out loud, though, y'know?"

As Goku propped his hands on his lower back, leaning back to stretch out the kinks from sitting on the couch, Chi-Chi couldn't help noticing Goku's cotton shirt molding against the defined creases of his well-toned chest and abdomen.

Before her eyes could travel any lower, she averted her gaze and stood to her feet beside him. "Yeah. You're right. This wasn't as bad as I thought it would be."

At Chi-Chi's playful smirk and punch to his shoulder, Goku chuckled. "What are you talkin' about? You always have fun spending time with me!"

Chi-Chi nearly gasped, not at the cockiness of Goku's statement, but the surprising truth behind it. Instead of gasping, she pressed her lips together, firmly shook her head and raised her finger rigidly at Goku. "Not always!"

Goku smirked teasingly. "Even when you get angry, you have fun."

Chi-Chi grunted and scowled, and this time, she genuinely felt like doing it. Goku seemed to be selectively recalling their good memories over their bad ones, and whether he remembered them or not, there were plenty of those. That was one of the reasons why they were divorced, and Goku couldn't be allowed to forget it.

"When I get angry at you," Chi-Chi clenched her fists and bared her teeth, "I am genuinely angry, Goku! It's not a game!"

Goku's brows rose high in alarm as he grimaced. "I-I know that! I wasn't tryin' to make you angry, Chi-Chi!"

"Well you're doing a pretty good job of it! You know what? I think it's time I head home."

"Wait! Chi-Chi!" As Chi-Chi turned for the door, she was stilled by a strong hand grasping her arm, "I don't want you leaving like this!"

Chi-Chi scoffed through clenched teeth, then pursed her lips and refused to look at Goku, though she didn't try to pull away again.

"We still have to work together again when the boys need us, right?"

As Goku's fingertips dug gently into her arm, Chi-Chi rolled her eyes and slumped her shoulders. "Of course we will. I don't have to like it, though."

Goku laughed as he made his way ahead of Chi-Chi, to the door. "Nah. You don't have to like it. But I will!"

Chi-Chi tried to stay angry as she followed Goku to the door, but her smile betrayed her. Dammit. Why wouldn't he just let her stay angry at him? When Chi-Chi looked up at Goku turning to face her from the doorway, he smiled warmly at the sight of her smile. After opening the door widely for her, Goku passed Chi-Chi with a gentle pat on the shoulder.

As his warm, platonic touch left her shoulder to make it grow cold, Chi-Chi sighed. "What am I ever going to do with you?"

One minute, he was infuriatingly frustrating, the next, he was the best company, the next, he was sending her confusing, mixed signals. He probably didn't even realize he was doing it. Sometimes, Chi-Chi wondered if he really understood her reasons for wanting a divorce. Sometimes, she wondered if he agreed to it solely because he thought it was what she wanted.

"So...uh..." pulling the keys from his pocket, Goku lead Chi-Chi to Nimbus, "I guess I'll see you in a couple of weeks."

Chi-Chi reached his side and grabbed for the keys in his hand. "I'll be calling you before then."

When Chi-Chi's fingers brushed over Goku's warm, calloused fingers, his breath hitched, just enough for Chi-Chi to notice. As Goku released the keys into her palm, Chi-Chi curled her fingers tightly around the jagged metal, wishing instead for the feel of his hand softly caressing hers, as it had just been for far too brief a moment.

Goku shoved his hands in his jeans pockets and drew a smile on his face. "Okay. Well, see ya, then."

Chi-Chi opened the car door and cast him a smile over her shoulder. "Yeah. See ya."

Once inside the car, Chi-Chi breathed a sigh of relief. Goku stood in the driveway while Chi-Chi started the car and adjusted the driver settings from Goku's fit to an adjustment that worked with her petite form. When Chi-Chi backed the car out of the driveway, Goku removed one hand from his pocket to wave it high in the air.

Fortunately, once she left his driveway, the challenge of driving Nimbus was enough of a distraction to keep Chi-Chi from mulling over her encounter with Goku on her way home. Instead, she drove in silence, focusing inadvertently on the hum of the engine and the sound of the tires rolling along the pavement as she concentrated on shifting correctly and getting herself safely home. She'd forgotten how difficult Nimbus was to drive and just why Goku was known to be the only one who could drive it. She couldn't believe her little boy was driving this car on a daily basis. But between these thoughts and navigating her way back home in the dark, Chi-Chi found herself pulling into her driveway already without giving a single thought to Goku.

Once the car's engine was shut off, that all changed. As Chi-Chi stepped out into the open air in front of her own home again, she couldn't stop the thoughts from flooding her mind. She closed the car door and thought about how cute Goku looked blushing and fidgeting on the couch beside her. She walked to her front door and thought about the comfort she felt from Goku assuring her that she was such a great mother. She opened the door and walked into the house, throwing the keys on the counter as she thought about how Goku's hand felt in hers.

"Mom?"

Chi-Chi gasped and thumped an open palm against her chest. "Gohan!"

"Sorry." Gohan chuckled when he ducked his head around the corner and recognized the surprised state of his mother. "I didn't mean to scare you."

Chi-Chi exhaled heavily in relief, before searching the state of her home. Most of the lights were off, aside from the one glowing from Gohan's bedroom and the lamp in the living room. There was no sign of Goten, whose door was closed, which was good, because he was likely still in bed. But there was also no sign of her father anywhere.

"Gohan, where's your grandpa?"

"Oh. Grandpa left a little bit ago."

Chi-Chi raised a brow, recalling the overlooked fact that the driveway was empty when she came home. "He did?"

"Yeah. I had to take a shower and there was really no point in him staying here any longer. He looked tired, Mom."

"Oh." Chi-Chi nodded dully and slid the car keys towards Gohan. "So you told him to go home?"

Before Gohan took the keys, a curious expression crossed his face. "Yeah."

"And what were you up to just now?"

Gohan opened his mouth to speak, then glanced behind him, towards the hallway, as if checking for Goten's presence. "Mom, what were you doing at Dad's house? I mean!" He quickly grimaced. "It's none of my business, but-"

"Gohan," Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes firmly, "nothing is going on that isn't your business. Sometimes parents have to talk, is all."

Gohan scratched the back of his head. "That's all?"

"Yes! For cryin' out loud, what did you think was happening, Gohan?"

When Gohan closed his mouth and lowered his dark eyes to the reflective kitchen countertop, Chi-Chi felt her heart sink. She should have known he would be hoping for more. She never wanted this to happen. At least Goten was unaware, but Gohan was too smart not to notice something so out of the ordinary and question it. Even worse, her father could've been feeding ideas into his head while she was gone.

Reaching a hand to gently stroke up and down Gohan's arm, Chi-Chi offered the most comforting smile she could and willed Gohan to look at her. "Gohan, I was extremely patient with your father for a very long time. I did the best I could to make it work, but it just wasn't working."

Gohan's eyes slowly lifted to meet hers. "I know."

Chi-Chi's lip twitched into a wider smile, though her eyes felt very sad. "We both love you and your brother very much, though. That will never change."

"I know." Gohan bit his lip as he curled his hand resting atop the counter into a tight fist. "But sometimes, I feel like-" Gohan shook his head and turned around. "Never mind."

"Gohan!" When Gohan turned around, Chi-Chi took a deep breath. "You know, we're always here for you, too, if you ever need to talk about anything. I'm here for you."

Gohan's brows rose as he read his mother's telling gaze. "Okay."

"If you need to talk about anything at all. Like girls." Chi-Chi crossed her arms and smirked. "I was a teenage girl once, too, you know. If there's anything you need to know, you can always ask me."

Gohan gasped as his cheeks turned a shade of crimson. "Who said I have questions about girls?"

"Piccolo told me." Chi-Chi smiled, relieved that she was able to get it all out in the open. "I think you were stressing him out. You might want to stick to the martial arts, school, and driving when you talk with him, Sweetheart."

Gohan laughed. "Really? Okay, so what did Piccolo tell you?"

Chi-Chi lowered her gaze briefly as she considered how she should broach the topic of Videl. She didn't want to tell Gohan that Goku told her, but claiming that Piccolo told her would be a lie. Piccolo really didn't tell her anything, though, so telling that to Gohan might put an end to this conversation, just when they were starting to really talk.

Looking up to meet Gohan's expectant gaze, Chi-Chi smiled. "What do you want to tell me?"

When Gohan took a seat on the barstool to start a relaxed conversation with her, Chi-Chi found joy from her decision. Sure, there was so much more she wanted to know, and giving Gohan the option to hold back from her had been one of the hardest things she'd ever done, but he was disclosing so much to her in that one conversation that he seemed to have been hiding for days or possibly weeks.

If Gohan left out anything important, Chi-Chi knew she could always talk with Goku to find out what information she was missing. And she'd definitely be checking Gohan's drawers for condoms after he left for school in the morning. But Goku's advice of maybe being able to let this go seemed to be doing her wonders on the trust front. When Gohan finally mentioned Videl's name, Chi-Chi encouragingly responded that the girl didn't sound all that bad. She might've not had the opportunity to have this open of a conversation this soon, if it weren't for that talk with Goku. Goku proved himself that night to actually be a wonderful father…and partner.

Chi-Chi decided she'd have to thank him the next time she saw him.


A/N: Sorry for the tease, but no smut yet. Lots of great stuff to come though. At least I fulfilled my promise of getting this chapter out quickly. I can't promise as much for the next one, but I know it will be a fun chapter to write, which always helps.

Chapter Text

A couple of weeks passed uneventfully for Chi-Chi after the meeting with Goku. As she stood there, looking down at Goten scribbling his pencil against his crisp, white paper, Chi-Chi kept catching herself thinking back to that night, and wondering how she hadn't remembered to call Goku as she promised. His weekend to take the boys was fast-approaching again, and they hadn't spoken a word to each other since.

At the front of the house, the door closed loudly, causing Chi-Chi to momentarily divert her attention from Goten's schoolwork and her thoughts, towards her arriving son.

Chi-Chi braced a hand on the table as she turned and called over her shoulder, "welcome home, Gohan! How was school today?"

"Good." Gohan rounded the corner with a smile on his face as he tossed the backpack from his shoulder onto the couch. "What are you working on, Goten?"

"Math." Goten pulled in his tongue which had been jutting from his lips in concentration, to look up from the table at his brother. "Mom's making me do the hard addition."

Chi-Chi smiled down proudly at the half-completed page with all correct answers, in spite of the fact that Goten was having difficulty with the problems.

Gohan eyed his brother and mother both, then ruffled his brother's hair and laughed. "Hey, you've got it easy. Mom had me doing much harder stuff at your age."

As Goten pouted and tapped his pencil against the table, Chi-Chi met Gohan's eyes with a knowing smile. It was true that she used to challenge Gohan more. She might've made him into an over-achiever, but as a young first-time mother, she didn't realize how high her standards were back then. And Gohan had his father around, mostly. With Goten growing up without Goku for such long stretches of time, Chi-Chi realized she had cut him some slack in comparison to his brother, more than likely to subconsciously compensate for his father's absence.

"Finish up those last few problems, Goten," Chi-Chi told her son with an encouraging pat on his back, "before Trunks gets here."

Gohan turned to Chi-Chi with his brows raised in surprise. "Trunks is coming over?"

Goten giggled and turned to flash his teeth at his brother. "Yeah, Gohan. It's Thursday!"

Before addressing her older son, Chi-Chi grasped the top of Goten's head firmly to redirect his gaze to his work. "I don't know yet who's bringing Trunks over, but he should be here around four."

Gohan placed his hands on his hips and glanced at the clock above the stone mantle, which read ten minutes to four. "Hm. I didn't realize it was Thursday already. I guess if they're coming, that kind of changes my plans."

"What were you going to do, Sweetheart?"

"Well, aside from homework, I was going to give Videl a call."

"You were?" Chi-Chi frowned. "Gohan, if you're getting serious about this girl, I want to meet her."

Gohan nervously laughed it off. "Mom, Videl is just a friend."

"Yeah," Goten giggled, "a friend who you want to kiss."

Gohan fumed as his cheeks reddened. "I do not!"

Chi-Chi tried not to laugh. "If you want to still call her, Gohan, you can. You don't have to stop yourself because Vegeta or Bulma will be over here with Trunks."

Gohan nodded, then after he watched Goten set his pencil down atop his completed assignment, turned to Chi-Chi with a curious frown. "You think it'll be Vegeta or Bulma today?"

Chi-Chi pursed her lips pensively. She wouldn't look forward to the idea of Vegeta bringing Trunks to the house. He was always such an asshole. Chi-Chi never looked forward to spending time with the man, but at least he kept to himself when he came over. As long as Chi-Chi fed him, he was content to leave her house doing them no more damage than a few snide comments.

The alarming sound of the dining room chair skidding across the wood floor made Chi-Chi cringe. Goten hurriedly pushed his finished work aside as he jumped from the pushed-out chair, seemingly before the doorbell rang, as if he could sense his friend's presence at the door. "Trunks!"

After hearing the belated doorbell, Chi-Chi turned to follow Goten and Gohan to the door, but before Chi-Chi even reached the door in their wake, Trunks was racing past her with Goten. "Hi, Aunt Chi-Chi! Hey, Gohan!"

Chi-Chi turned to smile at the blur of black and purple hair as Trunks zoomed past with Goten, heading straight for Goten's room. The boy obviously needed no acknowledgement from Chi-Chi, not when he and Goten were already so excited about their own plans to play.

"Gohan!" At the sound of the feminine voice calling from the doorway, Chi-Chi turned away from the sight of Goten's bedroom door swinging closed behind the boys. Immediately, she wished it were a different voice she heard. Even Vegeta's company was preferable to what she was about to be subjected to.

"Hi, Aunt Bulma! How have you been?"

"Let me take a look at you." Chi-Chi entered the foyer to find Bulma tucking a blue lock of stray hair from her beautifully made-up face as she spun Gohan around by the shoulder to inspect him. "I swear, every time I see you, you're looking more and more like your father."

Interrupting Gohan's embarrassed laughter, Chi-Chi crossed her arms and propped her hip against the wall in the foyer. "Hi, Bulma."

"Chi-Chi!" Bulma turned her attention from Gohan to beam at Chi-Chi. "I love that dress!"

Chi-Chi glanced down at her pink, coral and purple floral shirt-dress, then smiled at Bulma. "Thanks."

It wasn't exactly one of her favorite dresses, or much of a standout from what she typically wore, but Chi-Chi figured the compliment was the nicest thing Bulma could say at the time, even if Bulma was only saying it to fish for a return compliment. Chi-Chi could tell, by the way Bulma grinned expectantly at her, and by the jewels around Bulma's neck and body-fitting sleeveless green sheath dress she wore, she was expecting as much from Chi-Chi.

"You do look nice, Mom." Coming from Gohan, that compliment meant so much more.

Chi-Chi smiled as she met Gohan's gaze in appreciation, before turning to lead both him and Bulma to the kitchen. Gohan smiled all the way into the kitchen, folding his forearms on the counter to lean in for conversation. As Chi-Chi opened the refrigerator to pull out a pitcher of iced tea, she took comfort in his added presence.

"Iced tea, Bulma?" Chi-Chi asked, even as she was already reaching into the cabinet for glasses for Gohan and herself.

"Yes, please." Bulma hummed amiably as she sat on a barstool behind the counter and shifted to face Gohan while Chi-Chi poured the drinks. "So, what's up lately, Kid?"

"Not much. School's great. I'm doing really well, actually."

Chi-Chi smiled into the refrigerator as she returned the pitcher to its proper place. "He's at the top of his class."

"Huh. So's Trunks!" Bulma said as Chi-Chi scooped an arm around the three poured glasses lined up on the counter.

"That's great, Bulma!" Gohan gushed, conveniently leaving out any feedback about Goten's performance, which, though excellent, was not yet top of his class.

"Yeah." Bulma fluffed her shoulder length, straight blue locks as Chi-Chi delivered the drinks to them. "He's just like his mother."

"I think he's getting more like his father." Chi-Chi said with a stern scowl. "That boy blew right past me when he came in here!"

"Oh," Bulma pursed her lips as she grasped the glass of iced tea and her eyes narrowed towards Goten's half-opened bedroom door, "I'm going to have a talk with him about that. Sorry, Chi-Chi."

"It's all right."

"It's just so hard to keep Vegeta's attitude from rubbing off on Trunks, you know?" Bulma sighed and sipped her drink. "I mean, Vegeta's always around training. And Trunks absolutely emulates him."

Chi-Chi frowned as she caught Gohan looking momentarily forlorn by Bulma's mention of Trunks' father always being around. Bulma was no dense woman, so Chi-Chi wondered how she could mention something like that without realizing she could upset Gohan. More likely, she intentionally made the remark to upset Chi-Chi.

Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes at Bulma as she tapped her fingernails roughly against her laminate countertop. "That must be hard on you, Bulma."

"Mm-hm." Bulma nodded. "But I've learned to live with that asshole."

"I should hope so." Chi-Chi shook her head. "You've only been living with the guy for ten years now."

"Married for eight." Bulma smiled before a sad look crossed her face. "We've lasted longer than any other marriage I know of, aside from my parents'."

Chi-Chi pressed her lips together in a hard line as she instantly averted her gaze from both Gohan and Bulma, busying herself with the few remaining dirty dishes in her sink to avoid seeing their pitying frowns. What Bulma failed to recall was that Chi-Chi managed to stay married to Goku for even longer than that - twelve years, to be exact. This conversation was a painful reminder of how many years were adding up that they'd spent divorced.

"How's Vegeta's citizenship coming along, Bulma?" Gohan asked. "Did he get that all squared away?"

"Yeah." Bulma scoffed as Chi-Chi sighed in relief at the change in subject. "Stupid bureaucracy. He's been living here for how many years now? He's even married to a natural born citizen, yet suddenly they want all this paperwork."

Gohan shook his head with chagrin as Chi-Chi vigorously scrubbed away the food caked into a dirtied white plate and then set the dripping clean plate on her padded drying rack.

"You better hope the same never happens to your dad." Bulma continued. "I warned Goku about that, but you know how he is."

Gohan nodded as Chi-Chi wrung her wet fingers through a green cotton dishrag, drying her hands as she processed everything Bulma was saying. The citizenship they were referring to was a problem for Vegeta, as he wasn't a natural born citizen here. He actually came to the country in search of Goku, who was unknowingly adopted from the same war-torn country from which Vegeta hailed. Growing up here with his adoptive grandfather, Goku knew nothing of his origin. But Vegeta knew it very well and for some reason, always looked down upon Goku for not having national pride. As if Goku was supposed to relate with a population of strangers halfway across the world that never cared about him.

Chi-Chi tossed her wet dish rag aside and snorted. "No one is revoking Goku's citizenship."

"You never know, Chi-Chi. He wasn't born here."

"Yeah, but he served in this country's military, Bulma." Chi-Chi said. "He even fought against his native country."

"Mom's right." Gohan said. "Dad even received honors from the president when he was wounded in battle and had to leave the service."

"I know, I know." Bulma flapped her hand. "I just don't want to see anything happen to him. He deserves so much better."

As she looked at Bulma's wistful expression, Chi-Chi formed her lips into a hard line. She knew Bulma was referring to Goku deserving better than his current situation of living alone in a modest little house, but part of her felt a sting of double meaning from her remark. Chi-Chi always felt like Bulma thought she wasn't good enough for Goku. Bulma would never say it, but it was the little things she said and did that made Chi-Chi feel that way.

"When you get home, Bulma, tell Vegeta we said hi." Gohan said before tipping his head back to gulp down the rest of his tea.

"Sure, Gohan. Vegeta says hi, too." At Gohan's surprised look and Chi-Chi's disbelieving raise of her brows, Bulma rolled her eyes. "I mean, that's what he should have said, so I'm saying it for him."

Gohan laughed as he made his way around to place his emptied glass in the sink. "All right, well I'm going to go get my homework started. Mom, can you two keep Trunks and Goten out of my room?"

"Sure, honey." Chi-Chi smiled and sipped her refreshing, sweet iced tea. "We wouldn't want the boys interrupting your conversation with Videl."

Gohan grit his teeth and winced as Bulma looked at him curiously, but ducked away to head to his room without another word about it. Bulma turned to Chi-Chi and propped a hand on her hip. "Who's Videl?"

"Gohan's new girlfriend, apparently." Relieved to hear that she'd at least heard about the girl before Bulma, Chi-Chi sipped her tea again and peered at Bulma over the rim. "He doesn't want to admit it, but he's been talking to and about the girl nearly every day."

"Wow." Bulma blinked. "I never thought Gohan would've had it in him, seeing how clueless his father was about girls at his age."

Chi-Chi set her glass down and smirked at Bulma. "Just because he never showed any attraction to you doesn't mean Goku was clueless."

Bulma's brows rose as she gaped at the remark, but she quickly dismissed it with a flippant shrug of her dainty shoulders. "So, when do we get to meet this girl?"

"I don't know." Chi-Chi sighed. "Maybe at the parent conference next week I'll be lucky enough to run into her and her parents."

"Oh?" Bulma shifted as she crossed her legs. "Gohan has parent conferences already? I wonder if Trunks has one coming soon."

"He might. Why don't you check with his school, Bulma?"

"Yeah." When Bulma nearly opened her mouth to say more, a loud crash sounded from Goten's bedroom, followed by a fit of giggles from the two young boys.

"Goten?" Chi-Chi stepped hastily around the kitchen counter, towards Goten's room.

Bulma was fast on Chi-Chi's heels. "Trunks?"

When they entered the room, they saw that the boys had somehow managed to strew Goten's toys all over. Everywhere. It looked like a bomb had gone off in the center of his room, with pictures knocked off his walls and his red sheets and blankets from his bed tossed across the mountainous mound of toys piled on the floor.

Chi-Chi bared her teeth furiously at her guiltily grimacing young son. "Goten!"

"Trunks," Bulma shook her finger at the other, stubbornly scowling boy, "you are going to help Goten clean up every single one of these toys before we go home, and don't dawdle, because you need a bath when we get home and you do not want to keep your father waiting for dinner."

"Aww!" Trunks complained as he kicked a toy across the room and petulantly crossed his arms.

"Mom," Goten whined, "me and Trunks won't have enough time to play!"

"Well you should've thought of that before you made this mess!" Chi-Chi yelled before throwing Goten's door wide open to give herself and Bulma a clear view of their progress from the kitchen. "Now get to work!"

Bulma added a firm nod of reinforcement to the boys before turning to follow Chi-Chi from the room, then scoffed, "Boys. Such a handful."

"What do you expect?" Chi-Chi asked as she reached the dining room and took a seat at the table where she could easily peer at the slow progress happening in Goten's room. "They are their father's sons."

"Yes, they are." Bulma crossed her arms with a scowling face as she took a seat opposite Chi-Chi. Before Chi-Chi could say anything else, a familiar ding sounded, notifying her of a text message. As Chi-Chi stood to check her phone, Bulma's brows rose curiously. "Was that mine?"

As Bulma reached for her purse and sought the phone inside it, Chi-Chi grasped hers from the kitchen countertop. "It's probably Goku. I haven't called him all week. His weekend is coming up and we never made arrangements for..." Chi-Chi furrowed her brows as she looked at the message, surprised to see that the text was not from Goku, but Eighteen.

"For the exchange?" Bulma finished for Chi-Chi with a suspicious frown as Chi-Chi intently read Eighteen's message.

"Hm." Chi-Chi carried her phone with her, staring at the words on the screen as she sat down again. "This is a change."

"What is it?" Bulma raised a brow and attempted to leer over Chi-Chi's phone. "Goku wants to meet you alone at his place before you bring the boys this time?"

As Bulma giggled at her suggestive remark, Chi-Chi just shook her head. Eighteen's text simply requested for Chi-Chi to meet at her place Friday night, rather than going directly to the sushi bar.

W-h-y-? Chi-Chi typed her one-worded response and looked at Bulma. "No, it's Eighteen. She's changing our meeting place for Friday night."

A sour frown suddenly crossed Bulma's face. "Yeah? That's funny. I still haven't received an invitation to this little weekly meeting."

Upon hearing noisy crashes, Chi-Chi glanced towards Goten's room and was relieved to see the wooden floor returning to its normal, clean state as the boys hustled around the room. Then, at the sound of another ding from her phone, she redirected her gaze to the screen.

"Yeah...sorry, Bulma." Chi-Chi said absently as she read Eighteen's new message. "We just always thought you were...busy on Friday nights."

Chi-Chi knit her brows together, reading Eighteen's message on the screen while Bulma talked. "Oh, that's right. Friday's the one night of the week I can get Vegeta to stop training. And when Trunks goes to bed..."

As Chi-Chi glanced up from her phone to see Bulma's cheeks reddening and her eyes rolling back in her head, Chi-Chi appreciated Bulma keeping her thoughts to herself. Looking back down at her phone, Chi-Chi frowned at Eighteen's vague explanation.

Eighteen's text simply stated it was because Krillin was going out with Yamcha, too, that night. That was out of the ordinary. Usually, the only times Eighteen and Krillin made plans requiring a babysitter were when they were going out together. For fear of being put up as a candidate for the job on her rare night out, Chi-Chi didn't bother asking who Marron's babysitter would be.

Instead, she put her phone down dismissively on the dining room table and folded her hands in her lap. "So I take it you don't want to go out with us this Friday?"

Bulma smiled. "Maybe next weekend, if I'm not doing anything."

"Well, looks like I'll be seeing your ex on Friday."

"Yamcha?" Bulma blinked and then frowned. "Tell everyone I said hi."

"I will."

A sly smirk crossed Bulma's face. "You want me to do the same when I see your ex this weekend?"

Chi-Chi nearly gasped at Bulma's suggestion. "You're going to see Goku?"

She didn't know anything about Goku seeing the Briefs that coming weekend, but he was definitely going to have the boys with him. She was starting to wonder just how often Goku took the boys over there without informing her.

"Yep." Bulma let the 'p' pop as she smacked her glossy lips together. "He's bringing the boys over for some swimming on Sunday. I'll probably end up watching the kids while he and Vegeta do...whatever macho shit they get into."

Chi-Chi clenched her teeth and tried not to bite down on her lip. It seemed Goku was planning to use his valuable time meant to be spent with the boys goofing off with Vegeta instead. She couldn't believe him.

"Bulma, how often does Goku do this?"

Bulma's mouth fell open in a moment of realization, before she forced a smile at Chi-Chi. "Bring the boys over for a swim? Not too much. I mean, usually he swims with them, you know?"

Chi-Chi pressed her lips together and nodded as she crossed her arms tightly, not at all believing a word Bulma said. She knew Bulma lied to her from time to time, and usually Bulma was too good at it for Chi-Chi to tell the difference. But this was not one of those instances.

"Mm-hm." Chi-Chi tapped a finger on her bicep and glowered at Bulma. "I'm going to need to have a talk with that man. He's supposed to be spending time with his sons!"

"He does!" Bulma nodded fervently. "The boys train with him and Vegeta sometimes! And they always have so much fun with Goku. You're too hard on him, Chi-Chi! Cut the guy some slack!"

"You've never been married to him, Bulma." Chi-Chi leaned forward and spoke in a terse whisper that the boys couldn't possibly overhear from the other room. "Don't tell me I need to cut him slack."

"Well, you're not married to him." Bulma narrowed her eyes, matching Chi-Chi's tone. "You gave up the right to harp on him when you decided you didn't want him anymore, Chi-Chi."

Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes at Bulma, clenching her jaw shut as she released a heavy exhale through her nose. Chi-Chi had to remind herself that Bulma had no idea what she was saying, what it was she was getting herself angry about. Bulma never knew Chi-Chi's motives for sending the divorce papers, so Chi-Chi could overlook Bulma's attitude towards her. What was painful for Chi-Chi was the idea that Bulma thought she didn't want Goku anymore because of the possibility that Goku expressed feeling that way at some point.

Chi-Chi met Bulma's gaze with steely resolve. "I had to send those papers, Bulma."

Bulma's blue eyes burned into Chi-Chi as she shook her head with a stubborn scowl.

"As far as my right to be hard on Goku," Chi-Chi raised her chin and injected sass into her voice, "I am the mother of his children, no matter what. And when it comes to my children, I will be hard on anyone I have to, even Goku."

Bulma shook her head and rolled her eyes with a look of disgust. "Fine. Keep tormenting the poor guy."

"Me?" Chi-Chi scoffed as she placed her hand against her chest. "Tormenting him?"

Bulma nodded and looked Chi-Chi intently in the eye. "You can be really cruel, Chi-Chi."

Chi-Chi blinked rapidly, having trouble wrapping her head around what Bulma just said to her. Their conversations usually went this way, but this was the first time Bulma had spoken so directly. Usually, she'd just beat around the bush and made passive aggressive remarks that could pass for pleasantries and compliments. Chi-Chi was shocked by this turn in conversation. She never had any idea that Bulma or possibly other friends of Goku's saw her as cruel. That was harsh, and far from the truth. She knew Goku never saw her that way. Most of the time when she lost her temper with him, he knew he deserved the treatment he received.

"So can you, Bulma." Chi-Chi shook her head and closed her eyes briefly, fighting to calm herself before Gohan or the boys might emerge from their rooms to find Bulma and Chi-Chi in this tense atmosphere.

She knew how much Goten's friendship with Trunks meant to him. They'd known each other since they were babies and were like two peas in a pod. She couldn't risk ruining something as special as that because she found Trunks' parents insufferable ever since they blamed her for her divorce from Goku. As usual, she would stick it out for the sake of her boys, not for her friendship with the Briefs.

"Chi-Chi…" the resignation in Bulma's voice surprised Chi-Chi, enough for her to open her eyes and turn her gaze on the other woman again without animosity. However, before Bulma could say more, Chi-Chi caught a streak of purple and black in her peripheral vision, which was accompanied by a noise brigade of racing footsteps from Goten's doorway.

"We're done!" Goten exclaimed jubilantly as he jumped by Chi-Chi's side.

"Mom," Trunks stuck his hands in his jeans pockets and looked hopefully at Bulma, "can we play more now?"

"We want to play video games before Trunks leaves." Goten said with an equally hopeful smile.

Chi-Chi sighed and exchanged a glance with Bulma. At least the boys wanted to do something that wouldn't make another mess, and by taking a quick glance towards Goten's room, Chi-Chi was able to confirm that they had restored the room to its prior, cleanly state. She wouldn't be able to talk anymore with Bulma while the boys were playing in the living room, where their only game console was located. But Chi-Chi had no desire to continue anymore conversation with Bulma, even if she had been slightly curious about what Bulma was about to say.

Chi-Chi sighed. "Okay."

"But not for too long." Bulma added as she moved into the living room to help the boys set up the system.

Chi-Chi could end the day more easily this way. Then she would text Goku after Bulma and Trunks left, just to tell him to come and pick the boys up from the house as usual. She didn't feel up to talking to him after that conversation with Bulma.

When Chi-Chi sat back to watch the boys preparing to play as Bulma started up the game for them, her phone alerted her of another text message. This time, when she looked down, the text was from Goku.

R u ok? Do I still get the kids Friday?

Chi-Chi rolled her eyes towards the ceiling, feeling truly guilty about the fact that she hadn't called him in the last two weeks. She was surprised that he seemed concerned about her. It was unlike Goku to be worried about not hearing from someone for a stretch of time. Heaven knew he was often guilty of leaving people in the lurch. Chi-Chi texted him back immediately, letting him know he could come over around five o'clock as usual on Friday.

While Goten and Trunks started a game, hooting and hollering in excitement at the screen as Bulma took a seat at the barstool again and started looking at her phone, Chi-Chi tapped her foot beneath the table, feeling impatient for Bulma and Trunks to leave already so she could start dinner. Then, as she sat there, mulling over whether she had ever been cruel to Goku, the alert of another text sounded, causing Chi-Chi to look at her phone.

Gr8! C u 2morro! :)

Chi-Chi disregarded Goku's message as soon as she received it, sliding her phone away as she focused her attention on watching Goten and his best friend play together. But the more she tried to focus on Goten, she realized she couldn't shake her distraction. Her gaze kept shifting back to her black-screened phone on the table. When she finally picked it up and tapped it to re-read Goku's last message, she couldn't stop smiling. She could just picture Goku's enthusiastic smile as he texted her that message.

Regardless of what he was planning to do with their sons for the weekend, she knew he was looking forward to it, and so were they. Once Goku picked up the boys on Friday night, Chi-Chi would be off to Eighteen's for their usual Friday night out, or maybe night in. Chi-Chi didn't know what Eighteen had planned, but a change in pace felt welcome right now, and she no longer felt concerned about how Goku was planning to spend his weekend. He was free to enjoy his time with the boys however he saw fit.

Chapter Text

A/N: I am really hooked on writing this story right now, so much so that my others are falling behind on their updates. I really didn't expect to be updating this one this fast. But all of your reviews are so enthusiastic and you seem excited for more and I love it! So here's a fast update for you, and before you react to Chi-Chi's reaction to things, make sure you're reading between the lines. You're all already doing that anyways, from what I can see, but I just felt the need to mention it in this chapter.


Chi-Chi sat parked outside Eighteen and Krillin's beachside home at dusk, checking herself in the fold down mirror with the darkening sky over the ocean waves reflecting from behind her image. Her red lipstick looked perfect, her fair skin was flawless, her hair was slicked back and tightly held in its bun, and she was ready to go in her revealing nighttime dress attire. Seeing herself like that briefly brought to mind the way Goku had hardly taken his eyes off of her when he'd stopped by to pick up the boys, but she couldn't think about Goku now. That would only ruin her night out with Eighteen. However, she had butterflies about this evening for some reason. Eighteen's plan to meet at the house suddenly felt like some sort of trap.

Before Chi-Chi could think of starting the car and leaving, the white, farmhouse-style front door flew open and a short blonde head of hair bobbed through the front doorway of the two-story house. "Auntie Chi-Chi!"

Chi-Chi couldn't help smiling at the adorable high-pitched voice of the little girl running to the side of her car. "Hi, Marron."

Chi-Chi slowly pushed her car door open, being careful not to harm the little girl standing much too close, though Chi-Chi's cautious movements gave Marron time to take a few steps back and make room for her exit. As Chi-Chi opened the car door, she could smell the salty air wafting off the ocean waves, hear their soothing crashes, and enjoy a gentle breeze.

"Hi!" Marron hopped and nearly jumped on Chi-Chi as she climbed out of the car, before she finished standing upright. "Hi! Hi!"

Chi-Chi caught her balance from Marron's onslaught and laughed. "Hi, sweetheart. I guess Mommy already saw me out here?"

"Yep." Marron squeezed Chi-Chi's leg and nodded. "And she said not to let you leave."

When she looked towards the house, catching sight of the white sheer curtain swinging closed in the lighted front bay window, Chi-Chi pursed her lips in displeasure. "She knows me too well."

"C'mon, Aunt Chi-Chi!" Marron grasped Chi-Chi's hand and gave it a firm tug. "Can you read me my bedtime story?"

With a defeated sigh, Chi-Chi allowed Marron to pull her along the stone path to the front door with a smile. "I don't know, honey. I think your mom and I are going to be leaving soon."

As Marron stuck out her bottom lip to express her disappointment with Chi-Chi's answer, they reached the opening front door, where Krillin stood on the other side, dressed in a blazer and jeans, with an ice-filled, blue drink in his hand. "Chi-Chi! You made it!"

Chi-Chi furrowed her brows as Krillin stepped aside, ushering her and Marron inside. "Hi, Krillin. What's going on?"

"Yamcha's already here. Can I make you something?" Krillin gestured to his half-empty glass. "How about one of these?"

Chi-Chi stepped over the threshold with Marron's hand in hers and raised a brow at the bubbling blue liquid in Krillin's glass. "What is-"

"Krillin!" Eighteen's scolding voice overshadowed what Chi-Chi was about to say as she stormed up from behind Krillin, dressed just as well as Chi-Chi in a fitted black dress. "I told you we need to put Marron to bed first. It's past her bedtime."

Krillin grimaced. "Oh, that's right. I forgot."

"I'll do it." Eighteen bent down to lift Marron by the armpits, causing Marron's tiny fingers to unclasp from Chi-Chi's hand. "That's right, Sweetie. Mommy's going to tuck you in."

Marron fussed and squirmed in Eighteen's arms. "But Momma! Auntie Chi-Chi was going to-"

"No!" Eighteen pulled Marron away to look her in the eyes with a stern glare, before shooting a sly smile at Chi-Chi. "Auntie Chi-Chi has other plans tonight. Mommy will read you our favorite story about the rich and powerful princess. How does that sound?"

As Marron pouted, but nodded at her mother, Chi-Chi reached a hand to tousle her small, silky head of blonde hair. "Goodnight, Marron. Maybe I'll read to you next time, okay?"

Marron met Chi-Chi's gaze, whimpered a little in disappointment, but conceded with a tired nod. "G'night."

"I'll be down in a few, Chi-Chi." Eighteen said.

"Goodnight, Marron." Krillin placed a stilling hand on Eighteen's arm as she passed, kissing Marron softly on the forehead.

Marron rubbed a fist into her tired eyes. "'Night, Daddy."

When Eighteen turned her back to them to make her way towards the stairs, Chi-Chi could hear a hum of content coming from Krillin. Then he turned to her with a sly smile. "So, how about that drink?"

Chi-Chi raised her shoulders with a dubious frown, but was cut off by Krillin turning his back to her and shouting into the living room as he passed. "Yamcha, Chi-Chi's here! I'm getting her a drink. You want another?"

"Yeah, sure!"

Chi-Chi followed Krillin to the point where the living room and kitchen divided, debating whether to follow him into the kitchen or head into the living room. The kitchen was always her comfort zone, especially when there was something to be served. But she hadn't said hello to Yamcha yet, or even seen him in quite a while. She couldn't just breeze past him without saying hello.

When Chi-Chi stopped at the open archway to the living room, a head of long, spiked black hair peeked from behind Krillin and Eighteen's designer brown leather sofa. "Chi-Chi?"

Chi-Chi smiled at her old friend. "Hi, Yamcha."

Yamcha laughed, proving that the others had already started without Chi-Chi by the way he wobbled to his feet. "Long time no see! How are Gohan and Goten?"

Chi-Chi cocked her head curiously and crossed her arms as she stepped into the living room. "Goku doesn't tell you about them?"

Yamcha rubbed the back of his neck and frowned. "I haven't seen or talked to Goku in a while, actually."

"Oh." Chi-Chi didn't know whether to be disappointed or relieved. She felt relieved that the cause for Yamcha's question wasn't Goku's neglect to talk about their children, but she felt sorry for the way their friend seemed put off by Goku's distance.

Yamcha's stepped around the couch and leaned against the back of it with his arms crossed, a look of concern crossing his face. "How are you doing, Chi-Chi?"

Chi-Chi immediately put on a smile. "Me? I'm great. Gohan's going to be graduating before you know it, and Goten's such a sweet boy. He really looks up to his brother, so I'm sure he'll be doing just as well in school by the time he reaches that age."

"That's good." Yamcha kicked his heel against the back of the sofa and shrugged. "But I asked how you are."

"Oh," Chi-Chi rolled her eyes as her face flushed at Yamcha's surprising concern, "I'm fine, really. Eighteen and I are going out tonight, like we do every week. It gives me a chance to think about myself for a change."

"That's good." Yamcha smiled. "You need that."

"Here!" Krillin came up behind Chi-Chi, shoving a drink in her face and thrusting another in Yamcha's direction. "Drink up!"

Chi-Chi took the drink in her hand and frowned through the clear glass at its mysterious blue contents. "I don't usually drink anything before I go out, Krillin."

"Chi-Chi," Yamcha sighed loudly in content after taking the first sip of his drink, "you can't pass up Krillin's drinks. This stuff's great!"

"Thanks, Yamcha." Krillin smiled at his friend before turning a boastful smile on Chi-Chi. "They are the best. My specialty. Besides, you might as well relax. Eighteen's gonna be a while. Marron tends to get temperamental at bedtime."

Chi-Chi grimaced in the direction of the staircase, though she couldn't see it, but she could just imagine what Eighteen was going through. It wasn't too long ago that Goten grew out of that phase. With a sigh and a shrug, Chi-Chi took a small sip of her drink. It burned going down, but the aftertaste was very smooth and sweet.

"Huh? Huh?" Krillin raised his brows tellingly at the pleased expression on Chi-Chi's face. "Good, right?"

Chi-Chi couldn't help smiling as she nodded. Grasping both hands around the cylindrical glass, she took another long sip. She didn't know what the mix was, but she couldn't deny that it tasted good, and the idea of cutting loose a little that night felt very tempting after her recent encounter with Bulma.

"Hey, Krillin," Yamcha downed the entirety of his drink and thrust the empty glass towards Krillin, "can I have another?"

"Okay, Yamcha." Krillin laughed and took the glass. "But you might want to slow down or we're never going to have a chance to do what we planned."

As Krillin turned hurriedly for the kitchen, Chi-Chi took another sip of her drink and turned her eyes on Yamcha. "What are your guys' plans tonight?"

"Oh," Yamcha turned to Chi-Chi with a smirk, "Krillin thinks we're going to a game, but I'm thinking, if I can get him drunk enough first, I can talk him into coming to a bar with me to help me meet women."

Chi-Chi raised her brows as Yamcha chuckled to himself and walked around to take his seat on the couch again. He plopped into the soft leather and turned to smile at Chi-Chi still standing behind him.

Chi-Chi folded one arm gently across her yellow-satin covered chest as she carried her drink in the other and walked past the couch to take a seat on the one opposite of Yamcha. She sipped her drink, then cocked her head curiously at Yamcha. "Krillin doesn't like going to bars?"

Before Yamcha could respond, Krillin turned the corner, carrying a metallic tray full of drinks and snacks. "What's this about me not liking bars?" He raised a brow suspiciously at Yamcha as he carefully slid the tray onto the glass coffee table. "Are you trying to get me in trouble?"

"No, man!" Yamcha laughed and waved a hand dismissively, but Krillin's suspicious scowl made him turn serious. "All right. I might as well just say it. I want you to help me meet somebody!"

"Me?" Krillin's brows rose before his face settled into a sly smile. "Ah, you've finally given up on asking Goku to go out with you."

As Krillin grabbed a full drink from the tray and took the seat beside Yamcha, Yamcha shook his head and reached across the table for his drink. "Nah. I just can't reach the guy and he never returns my calls."

Krillin glanced at Chi-Chi before nodding at Yamcha with a frown. "Yeah, he's not too great about staying in touch."

"Besides, Krillin," Yamcha smiled and patted his friend on the back, "you're the best wingman I know."

Krillin rolled his eyes. "Better than Goku, that's for sure."

"Yeah." Yamcha laughed. "Goku is the worst wingman!"

"The worst!" Krillin agreed with a laugh.

Chi-Chi couldn't help laughing along with them as they exchanged a look and their laughter grew louder. It was contagious. But she really didn't know what that remark was supposed to mean. She felt like she was missing out on an inside joke.

After the laughter died off, she furrowed her brows, "how so?"

"W-well," Krillin stuttered, looking to Yamcha for help, "you see..."

"Uh..." Yamcha picked it up for Krillin, scratching his head, though his agitated body language made it evident that he was reluctant to say anything.

Chi-Chi narrowed her brows at them, lifting her drink to her lips for another sip as she waited. It was obvious they knew exactly what they meant, or they wouldn't have been laughing so hard. They just didn't want to tell her.

Sighing in satisfaction at the taste of her drink, Chi-Chi grinned at them. "Come on, guys. I'm not married to Goku anymore. You can tell me."

"Well," Krillin exchanged a glance with Yamcha, before shrugging, "you remember when you met Goku? He was suppos-"

"He steals all the girls!" Yamcha laughed. "He was supposed to be setting you up to meet Krillin that night!"

Chi-Chi's eyes bulged as her eyes lit on Krillin's flushed face. "What?"

"Hey," Krillin crossed his arms and let his eyelids slide shut, "I'm happily married now, remember? But back then, well..."

"Back then, Chi-Chi was hot! She still is!"

Chi-Chi felt she was the one whose face was flushing with heat now. She couldn't even linger on the infuriating thought of Goku going out with his friends and having girls throwing themselves at him, not when his friends just made a comment about her being hot. She never knew Goku's friends felt that way about her. Shyly, she turned her gaze away from the smiling faces of the men sitting across from her, to the shiny tray filled with drinks and small bowls of nuts and chips. She still couldn't believe that Krillin thought he would be the one leaving with her that night, not Goku.

She licked her lips with her eyes still fixed on the tray. "The way I remember it, I bumped into Goku at the concession stand, and he smiled at me...and..." Chi-Chi's brows furrowed as she concentrated on the memory from all those years ago.

She couldn't recall how Goku stole Krillin's chances with her. The series of events all blurred together as one hazy night of being swept off her feet. She remembered that youthful, heartbreaking smile, though. She felt like it was love at first sight. Ah, Goku was so handsome. And she instantly felt so comfortable talking to him.

"And that's why he's a crappy wingman!" When Chi-Chi looked at Yamcha, he was smirking at the look on her face.

"The worst part is," Krillin snorted with laughter, shaking his head as he lazily tossed a peanut from the tray of snacks into his mouth, "the worst part is, he never even had to try!"

Yamcha frowned petulantly, the humor gone from his face as he shook his head, placed his drink on the table and crossed his arms. "Still doesn't. And you wonder why I'm still single."

"Lucky, good-looking bastard." Krillin scoffed. "The women always flock to him."

"I should give up on going out with him."

"You should." Krillin nodded.

"Yeah," Yamcha leaned back against the couch, frowning in consideration, "but Goku is fun!"

Chi-Chi laughed along with Yamcha. She knew the truth in that. If you wanted to have fun, Goku was the person to go to. If you wanted to have a solid, supportive relationship, that was a different story.

"Hey." Krillin's eyes darted between Chi-Chi and Yamcha as he fell back into the couch by Yamcha's side, "how come you two never-"

Krillin stiffened as Chi-Chi realized the implication of what he was about to suggest. She didn't even want to think about the awkward position that suggestion would put him in as Goku's friend. But as he clenched his teeth and anxiously looked around the room, the implication hung in the air, drawing Chi-Chi to shyly meet Yamcha's gaze.

It was true that Goku immediately caught her interest when they met, and therefore she'd never looked at any of his friends in that light before. Now that she was taking a moment to consider it, Yamcha was very handsome. He had been friends with Goku and dating Bulma at the time Chi-Chi started dating Goku. He'd been with one random woman after another since the time Bulma dumped him for Vegeta, though. All that time Chi-Chi and Goku were separated, she never considered Yamcha as a potential match. She wondered why. Maybe...maybe it was because she was still holding out hope, wishing that Goku would change and they could make it work.

"Hey, guys," Krillin chuckled nervously, "I was just kidding!"

Chi-Chi cleared her throat, noticing that Krillin had said that because she was staring at Yamcha a little too intensely, and his eyes seemed to be locked on her, too.

"Geez," Krillin shook his head, reaching for another handful of peanuts, "don't scare me like that! Do you know what kind of trouble you'll get me into? I don't want Goku to kick my ass!"

Chi-Chi peered at Krillin. "Why would Goku kick your ass, Krillin? He doesn't care what I do."

Yamcha let out an awkward, nervous chuckle, which he immediately followed with a yelp of pain as he jumped in his seat.

Krillin turned from glaring at Yamcha's worrisome grimace to force a smile in Chi-Chi's direction. "No reason."

Crossing her arms slowly over her chest, Chi-Chi cast a scrutinizing gaze on the inebriated men sitting across from her. They couldn't have made it any more obvious that they were hiding something about Goku. From the hints Chi-Chi was picking up, it almost seemed like they thought he would be jealous if she dated his longtime friend. But she didn't think Goku was capable of being jealous. He was always perfectly content with what he had when they were married and trusted in Chi-Chi's faithfulness completely. If he really disliked the idea of her being with someone else now, why was he so gung-ho to leave her for some lousy training opportunity all those years ago? Did he really not think he would ever lose her, no matter what he did?

Maybe that's exactly what he thought. And maybe now that he was out meeting loose women at bars with Krillin and Yamcha, he was realizing what a good thing he had. Well, if he was really taking women home -women he was supposed to be picking up for Yamcha's benefit- Chi-Chi didn't want to have anything to do with him. She couldn't believe Goku would behave like that, and only hoped her children were as unaware of his behavior as she was.

Chi-Chi growled and bared her teeth at the men sitting across from her, before swiping a new drink from the table and chugging the remainder of it, and then glaring at the men as the cold, harsh liquid washed down her throat. "I know the reason. You can't cover Goku's ass all the time."

Krillin and Yamcha raised their brows curiously at one another, before Krillin furrowed his brows and tilted his head at Chi-Chi. "I'm not sure what you're talking about, Chi-Chi."

Before Chi-Chi could explain that she was onto Goku and his philandering bachelor ways, the high-pitched chime of Krillin's doorbell sounded, followed by the thunder of footsteps hurrying down the stairs. Curious about who had arrived, Chi-Chi turned her head towards the muted voices at the entrance of the house that followed the racket. She instantly felt relieved by the interruption, because she realized she would have regretted revealing to the guys that she was angry over the idea of Goku seeing other women. She had divorced him nearly a decade ago, for crying out loud. She had no right to be angry, unless she was still holding out hope, and that would just make her look pathetic. She'd never want that.

"Oh." Krillin rubbed his bald head as he twisted in his seat to face the concealed doorway. "He's here."

Chi-Chi casually reached for a handful of almonds from the table. "Who?"

Yamcha looked at Krillin and knit his brows tightly together. "She really did it?"

"What do you expect?" Krillin scoffed, before casting Chi-Chi a concerned look. "That's my wife for you."

Chi-Chi's mouth slowly fell open as she heard footsteps proceeding along the tile floors, towards the living room where they sat. Whatever was going on, her initial instinct of this setup being a trap came back to her full force.

Chi-Chi didn't have time to wonder, as Eighteen came around the corner with a man in tow. A man Chi-Chi vaguely recognized, because she had only met him once, and mostly recognized him from the family photos around Eighteen and Krillin's home. His black, sleek hair brushed his shoulders, he was dressed out of his usual park ranger uniform, in a more night-appropriate navy blue suit, and he wore shiny shoes to match the getup as he looked around the room with piercing blue eyes.

Eighteen crossed her arms and smirked at the gawking faces in her living room. "Look who's here. Ready, Chi-Chi?"

Clenching her jaw tightly, Chi-Chi glared daggers at her blonde friend. Eighteen should have known better than to set her up like this, she thought. Of course, if Eighteen gave her the option, Chi-Chi knew as well as Eighteen did that this never would have happened. The only solace Chi-Chi found in the immediate situation was seeing the apathetic look on Seventeen's face.

Maybe she could leave with him and get this over with quickly. Better yet, that was the perfect plan. Because she sure as hell didn't want to spend any time with Eighteen now, and after the conversation she'd just had with Yamcha and Krillin, she was feeling the need to spite Goku for his behavior. Even if he didn't care what she did, she wanted him to know how she felt.

"We don't have to go anywhere," Seventeen said gruffly, in spite of his sister giving him an inconspicuous, but hard elbow in his side, "if you don't want to."

Chi-Chi stood to her feet, wiped the salt from the almonds off her hands, and narrowed her eyes at Yamcha and Krillin's gawking faces. "I do. Let's go, Seventeen."

"Woah, wait!" Krillin shook his head. "What?"

Yamcha blinked disbelievingly as he tracked Chi-Chi's hasty movement around the couch to Seventeen's side. "Chi-Chi?"

As Chi-Chi grasped his hand tightly, Seventeen opened his mouth with an indignant look in his eyes, but before he could say anything, Chi-Chi was forcefully pulling him towards the door. Eighteen followed the pair in their haste towards the door, narrowing her eyes at Chi-Chi. "Chi-Chi, what are y-"

"Bye, guys!" Chi-Chi shouted over Eighteen's continuing question she could no longer hear or want to listen to, "thanks for the drinks, Krillin! They really loosened me up!"

As Chi-Chi rushed out the front door, dragging Seventeen by the hand with her, Eighteen stilled in her wide-open doorway. "Chi-Chi!"

Seventeen violently tugged his hand free of Chi-Chi's, causing her to gasp in surprise as she turned to face his intense glare, yet, when Eighteen called his name, Seventeen glanced over his shoulder towards his sister with a sneer that only Chi-Chi could see. "Bye, Eighteen. Have a good night."

When Seventeen led Chi-Chi the rest of the way to the passenger side of his black truck parked behind hers, Chi-Chi took a deep breath and followed him. Now she was questioning what she was getting herself into. But with Eighteen watching, she wasn't going to back down.

So as she climbed into Seventeen's truck and allowed him to close the door behind her, she stared straight ahead and swallowed hard, trying to stifle any fear or anxiety she was feeling about this situation. She could go on a date with someone that wasn't Goku, even if she'd never done it before. She could handle this for one night. She would get through this date and be laughing about the whole, infuriating series of events by morning.

Chapter Text

A/N: There's so much in this chapter. I love hearing all your reactions though, and really look forward to hearing what you think of this one.


Chi-Chi's eyes darted around, taking in her bright surroundings as she waited for Seventeen to make his way through the concession line. Their date started at a small, inexpensive diner, filled with small talk and Chi-Chi attempting to read Seventeen, though the guy seemed to lack any personality feature that wasn't snide.

Now, the theatre they were at was a popular one, as crowded as one would expect to find it on a Friday night with new releases playing. The lines were long, giving Chi-Chi plenty of time to take a break from Seventeen's company and seriously consider abandoning the whole thing, which she hadn't stopped considering since climbing into Seventeen's truck.

The idea of sitting alone in the dark with Seventeen, watching a movie and eating popcorn, made her extremely uncomfortable. A movie was a great first date for horny teenagers, but not grown adults who seemed to mutually wish one another would just disappear. As Chi-Chi turned from the wall lined with movie posters to face the bustling, noisy concession stand and see where Seventeen currently stood, she didn't know whether to feel relieved or apprehensive about the fact that Seventeen stood at the counter with the popcorn and sodas in his arms, already paying the teenaged attendant.

As he turned his gaze on her, Chi-Chi couldn't help frowning. This was going to be so awkward. She didn't even care about spiting Eighteen or Goku anymore. This foolish idea was giving Eighteen just what she wanted, and Goku had no clue this was even happening. At least the movie was going to be action packed- some end of the world, future apocalyptic movie Seventeen had chosen - but could she really sit through it, next to Seventeen? What if he expected touching or closeness? What if he expected something more from her afterwards? Chi-Chi couldn't read his impassive gaze as he approached, but Seventeen did manage to muster a small smile when he finally handed over her small soda.

After sipping from his straw, Seventeen nodded in the direction of the wide hall leading to the theatres. "Want to find seats?"

Chi-Chi placed her lips around her white plastic straw and sipped her cold, fizzing soft drink, before smiling shyly at him. "Sure."

Seventeen wrapped one arm around the bagged popcorn and held his soda in the other hand, keeping both hands occupied as they walked side by side through the gradually dimming, red-carpeted hall, keeping a marginal distance between them.

Chi-Chi sipped her soda again as they walked past other pairs of people in silence, seeking the overhead glowing sign with the movie's name on it. Her heels wanted to catch on the sticky, worn carpeting as she walked, feeling Seventeen's eyes burning into her until she finally spotted the entrance to their movie.

"Oh!" Chi-Chi inhaled sharply in relief. "Here it is."

Seventeen clicked his tongue and stopped at the double doors. "All right. Let's go in."

Chi-Chi went first, pulling one door open without giving Seventeen the chance to do it for her. Her date wordlessly followed, catching the door mid-swing with his shoulder as Chi-Chi glanced back at him apologetically. She didn't mean to be rude, but she didn't want to give him any ideas about making moves on her during the movie.

As her senses were flooded with darkness, loud music from the coming attractions, and a musty scent in the theatre, Chi-Chi followed the dim path of floor lighting to find an empty pair of seats among the many taken seats in the audience. Chi-Chi gnawed her bottom lip and clenched her moistening paper cup as her gaze panned over the selection of seats available, until she finally settled on a pair in the center of the theatre. She walked straight to it, without bothering to check if Seventeen was following closely. The whole point of dating was to encourage touching, yet she was doing the opposite with Seventeen. Damn, she hoped this movie wasn't too long.


The movie seemed to last forever. By the time it came to its catastrophic ending, Chi-Chi was convinced that Seventeen was just as put off about this whole date as she was. He hadn't raised a finger in her direction or even looked at her for the duration of the movie. Once they emerged into the night lighting of the outside parking lot from the theatre's outdoor exit, Chi-Chi turned to Seventeen and struggled to find some words to say.

"Look, Princess," Seventeen scowled, causing Chi-Chi to furrow her brows at his sudden attitude, "do you want to keep this going, or what?"

Chi-Chi looked at him, meeting his mocking gaze in puzzlement. "Keep what going?"

Seventeen raised a brow as a look of amusement flashed in his eyes. "Want to finish the night off at my place?"

Chi-Chi gasped. She couldn't believe Eighteen's brother would be so forward with her. Did he really just suggest they have sex when they'd just met? She would never! She clenched her teeth and narrowed her eyes at him, preparing to give him a piece of her mind for the crude suggestion.

"Ugh." Seventeen studied the look on Chi-Chi's face and shook his head. "You're one of those."

"One of what?"

Seventeen rolled his eyes and tsked. "My sister can be such a bitch, can't she?"

Chi-Chi blinked. "Excuse me?"

"She's my bitch, though." Seventeen smirked. "Gotta love her."

"Look." Chi-Chi pursed her lips and placed her hands on her hips. "If you're trying to insult me-"

"Not trying to, Princess." Seventeen folded his tailor-sleeved arms across his chest. "I wasn't really looking to get anything out of this tonight, but I figured since you're a divorcée, we could've been mutually beneficial to each other, with no strings atta-"

Chi-Chi leaned forward and glared. "Are you saying you agreed to take me out just to have sex with me?"

Seventeen shrugged and smiled. "You're a good looking woman, I'm a great looking man, and I'm not looking for a relationship. You're not either."

Chi-Chi balked in surprise. Seventeen sounded so confident and sure of himself when he claimed she wasn't looking for anyone. She wondered if her signals through the evening had really been that obvious. Now she almost felt bad for not giving the guy an honest chance.

"But if you're looking for some release tonight, maybe you want to make Goku jealous..." Seventeen smiled suggestively and shrugged as he let his implication sink in. "Besides, you're not my type. A long term thing would never work out. I don't do women with children, especially not those who are still hung up on their ex."

Chi-Chi's glare returned as she ground her teeth. This man had some nerve assessing her like this and claiming she was hung up on Goku! He didn't know anything about what had gone on between her and Goku. Chi-Chi didn't feel bad at all now for not giving him a chance. This bastard wouldn't have a chance in hell with her! Eighteen was a bitch, if she knew her brother would pull something like this.

Chi-Chi dug her fingernails into her palm as she wrapped her fingers tightly around the leather strap of her purse. "You're a real asshole, you know that?"

Seventeen sighed and smiled, looking indifferent to the insult. "So I guess that's a no."

"Hell no! Go back to your crappy truck and hide out in your wilderness alone, Seventeen. I'm walking home!"

As Chi-Chi stormed off down the street lit sidewalk in a fury-driven huff, she belatedly recalled the fact that Eighteen and Krillin's home where her car was parked would be too far of a walk for her, especially in these pointed heels. Maybe storming off like this alone, scantily clad, wasn't her best idea, but there was still no way in hell that Chi-Chi was getting back in that man's truck.

"Chi-Chi!" Seventeen called with a tone of annoyance. "If I leave you here, I won't hear the end of this from my sister."

"Good!" Chi-Chi shouted over her shoulder as she continued her march, "I hope she gives you as much a piece of her mind as I'm going to give her!"

"Come on!" The guttural annoyance from Seventeen's voice signified to Chi-Chi that Seventeen wasn't worried enough about his sister's wrath to come after her. His voice was already at a distance, and when no more calls from him followed, she knew she was in the clear.

Chi-Chi was determined to march out of Seventeen's sight. So many men out there were such assholes. This was the main reason she never dated after Goku. She'd be more content to be a single mother for the rest of her life than ever do this again. Of course, that sounded like a very sad future. It wasn't a much better alternative. She wondered if she could ever meet a guy that could measure up to Goku, but without the blatant irresponsibility and childish behavior that he tended to exhibit. It seemed unlikely. And now, she had to worry about how she was going to get out of this movie theatre parking lot.

Chi-Chi stopped at the curb, reaching into her strappy black leather purse for her phone. Maybe she could call someone for a ride. When she pulled out her phone and glanced at the screen, the time read 11:16. The movie ended later than she expected. She was just glad she and Seventeen had a bite to eat before the movie, quick and cheap as it was. She nearly fumed again, thinking that the man actually thought she would sleep with him just for taking her out on some cheap date. But she had to focus on getting home.

Walking home from this location would be a joke. It was too late to call Gohan for a ride; he was likely asleep already. Even if she did, he was with Goku and once Goku knew about her predicament, he would be coming with Gohan for sure, which meant dragging Goten along for the ride. She didn't need the whole family coming to her aid. But she sure as hell didn't want to call the Briefs and hear their judgement, or hear Eighteen's voice at the moment, and her father had to be asleep by now.

With a growl of frustration, Chi-Chi placed one hand on her hip and let the one holding her phone fall to her side. She could only think of one person she could call at this time without fallout, and as much as she'd been hoping to rub this date in his face from the onset, she didn't want to explain to him how it ended so badly.

Shaking her head stubbornly, Chi-Chi began walking again. She could make it to her father's on foot from here. His home was closest to the theatre and she had a key to his house. She could let herself in and spend the night there until he could drive her to retrieve her car from Krillin's in the morning.

As Chi-Chi walked, her shoes became more and more uncomfortable, until the painful tearing sensation along her heel grew to the point that Chi-Chi had to come to a halt. Hissing in pain, Chi-Chi stopped walking near the dark perimeter of the parking lot. She would have to take those heels off if she was going to make it. There was no way she could bear the blistering that was already starting from the uncomfortable, yet stylish shoes.

As she leaned against a large trash bin and bent down to free her feet, Chi-Chi grimaced. The rough concrete and pebbles on which she set her bare feet weren't much better than her heels. Weighing the alternatives, Chi-Chi settled for hanging the pointed toes of her heels from her open purse and continuing on bare feet. It couldn't be worse than walking in the heels. She wondered how she'd gotten herself into this predicament. Still, this was better than being driven home in the company of that cold, egotistical asshole.

As Chi-Chi approached the road, she walked beside a dark lot of pine trees and oak trees casting shadows all around her and over the road. At this late hour, traffic on the road was light. Especially as Chi-Chi made her way further from the theatre, the traffic gradually dwindled to nothing but an occasional passing car. The streetlights spread further apart as Chi-Chi traveled the road from the theatre, nearing her first intersection where she would make a turn to head to her father's, which was maybe six blocks away.

"Ouch!" She hissed at the sharp pain of stepping on something in the darkness, possibly a rock, possibly a piece of metal or glass.

She couldn't tell what it was when she glared down at the dark piece protruding from the ground, but now she had to limp as she continued, to alleviate the pain in the bottom of her left foot.

Pressing her lips together, Chi-Chi stopped walking and braced her hands on her knees, feeling the urge to cry. This was not how she expected her Friday night to turn out. When she looked up again, a flash of movement from the distant trees, near the intersection ahead caught her eye. When she peered more carefully at the vague figure moving among the trees, she was able to make out that it was a man. Damn, this couldn't get any worse. But Chi-Chi was tough. She was skilled in the art of self-defense which her father had taught her since she was a little girl. If the man in the woods decided to bother her when she passed, she would defend herself. She was not in the mood to be fucked with right now.

But as she walked further, Chi-Chi took pause at a second figure. Okay, sure. She could fight off one man, no problem. But as she heard their laughter, she presumed they were drinking. Their presences felt ominous. And she was alone in a sexy dress with heels and wounded feet. If anything went wrong, she couldn't forgive herself for what her children would have to hear about this. She still felt tempted to move forward and prepare to fight if necessary, but her concern for her children finally overwhelmed her stubborn determination.

Reluctantly, Chi-Chi dug through her purse for her phone and speed-dialed the only man she could call right now. She frowned as it rang once, then twice.

"Hello?"

"G-" Chi-Chi winced at the loudness of her own voice and swallowed hard, "Goku. Sorry for calling so late. Did...did I wake you? Did I wake the boys?"

"Nah, I was up. I think Gohan just went to sleep, but he didn't hear the phone. What's up?"

"Ummm..." Chi-Chi held her breath in anticipation as a flurry of movement happened in the trees up ahead, but the activity settled down again as deep laughter followed. "Can...can you-"

"Chi-Chi? What's wrong?"

Chi-Chi closed her eyes briefly to clear her head. She wasn't going to tell him about the strange vagrants nearby. She didn't need to scare Goku. She simply needed a ride home. Of course, explaining her need for a ride in a way that would get Goku to come right away wouldn't be easy. "N-nothing. I just...I need a ride."

"A ride?" Goku's voice rose with audible concern. "Where are you?"

"I'm," Chi-Chi glanced at the intersection ahead, then back in the direction of the theatre. "I'm just in front of the movie theatre. You remember, the one near my father's house."

"Are you okay?"

Chi-Chi took a deep breath. "Yeah. Yeah. I'm fine. It's silly, really. But I- can you just come and drive me home? Please?"

Chi-Chi started backing towards the theatre, keeping an eye carefully trained on the suspicious men ahead as she backed away from them. The moment of dead silence on the phone made Chi-Chi feel an edge of panic. If he said no-

"I'll be right there." Before Goku hung up, Chi-Chi could already hear the roar of Nimbus' engine in the background.

She took a deep breath as she deposited the phone in her purse and resumed walking. Goku wouldn't be calling her back; he'd just be arriving at the theatre. There was no way to talk on the phone while driving that car. With one last glance towards the intersection which was now behind her, Chi-Chi confirmed that the men weren't watching or following her.

Sighing in relief, Chi-Chi resumed her walk back to the theatre, figuratively kicking herself for making her earlier irrational decision. She didn't know what she was going to tell Goku when he picked her up. Fortunately, he wasn't one to ask a lot of questions, but there was no way even he would not have questions about this.

After her grueling retreat, Chi-Chi waited near the entrance of the theatre, feeling comforted by the passing presences of other people attending late night showings. At least if she had to be stranded somewhere, it was at a place that stayed open so late. However, she caught some quizzical looks from people noticing her posted outside the theatre with dirty, bare feet. She quickly rectified her embarrassment by putting her shoes back on, as painful and dirty as those heels felt against the soles of her feet.

When Chi-Chi recognized the yellow hot rod pulling into the entrance of the parking lot in the distance, she waved her hand in the air to signal Goku over. He apparently saw her signal, because Nimbus was turned immediately in her direction, recklessly speeding through the parking lot. When the car stopped at the curb and the passenger door flew open from the inside, Chi-Chi was greeted by Goku in a white wife-beater and red sweatpants, looking past and around her as if in search of danger.

"Thank you!" Chi-Chi sighed as she sank into the soft leather and took the pressure off her aching feet. She turned to Goku, smiling in relief as she closed the door behind her.

Goku frowned and looked her up and down. "What happened?"

"It's stupid." Chi-Chi shook her head and set her purse on the ground by her feet. "I was on this date. Eighteen set it up."

Goku's mouth fell open as his eyes darted to the theatre behind Chi-Chi, then back to Chi-Chi's dress, putting the pieces together. Finally, he grit his teeth as some other thought passed through his mind. "Did he hurt you?"

"Huh?"

"The guy you were with," Goku said, "did he hurt you?"

"N-no!" Chi-Chi's eyes bulged before a look of relief washed over Goku's face as he grasped the steering wheel and sped the car towards the parking lot exit, "he was just being an asshole, so I refused to leave with him!"

Goku's eyes widened before he turned his gaze from the road to look at Chi-Chi. "And you called me for a ride?"

"Yes. I'm pissed at Eighteen and most people are asleep, so..."

"Why didn't you call Bulma?"

Chi-Chi crossed her arms and scowled. "Why should I call Bulma?"

"Why didn't you call Krillin? Or Yamcha?"

"Didn't you just hear me tell you I'm pissed at Eighteen? Krillin or Yamcha would bring me back to her place and I do not want to see her right now."

"Yeah, but-"

"I'm sorry I bothered you by calling on you, Goku." Chi-Chi said crossly.

"That's not it. It's just," Goku shrugged, "if I didn't know any better, I'd think you were trying to make me jealous."

Chi-Chi laughed. "What?"

"Yeah," Goku smiled, "I mean, just look at the way you're dressed tonight."

"What about it?"

"Well, you never wore that dress out with me."

"Goku," Chi-Chi scoffed and knit her brows in frustration, "I didn't own this dress when we were together."

"Oh."

Goku stopped talking to turn his head forward and focus on the road. Not knowing what else to say, Chi-Chi kicked her heels off. Her feet enjoyed the break as she glanced out the car window at the houses they passed through a neighborhood, towards a traffic lighted intersection.

By Goku's reaction to her vague story, Chi-Chi realized she actually was making him jealous. It made her feel giddy, in spite of feeling a little guilty about it. As much as Chi-Chi hated to admit it to herself, she knew she hadn't been honest with Seventeen. The dating pool was not really her main reason for refusing to date after Goku. Seventeen was right. Goku was the reason. She was still hung up on him, and stupidly dating Eighteen's brother just to try and hurt him for what he'd been doing. Now that she pushed Goku's buttons, she felt a little bad about all of this. That was, until the imagined scene played through her mind of Goku picking up and taking home women from bars with Krillin and Yamcha.

Looking out the window, Chi-Chi muttered under her breath, "why do you care what I'm wearing anyways? Don't you see enough beautiful women in nice dresses?"

"Hm?" Goku curiously perked at Chi-Chi's comment. "What beautiful women?"

"Don't play dumb with me, Goku." Chi-Chi turned a disbelieving glare on the driver. "Krillin and Yamcha told me all about you going out with them."

Goku blinked. "Krillin and Yamcha aren't beautiful women."

Chi-Chi growled. "No, you idiot, I'm talking about the women you pick up when you're out with them!"

"I don't pick up any women, Chi-Chi." Goku shot her a cheeky grin. "They usually just sit next to me."

Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes to show Goku she wasn't playing. Goku immediately dropped the smile and winced at her look.

"Really, though..." Goku trailed off as his lips turned down in a pout, "I don't know what you're talking about."

"You don't know what I'm talking about?" Chi-Chi repeated skeptically as she looked out the front windshield to recognize familiar homes and landmarks of her neighborhood ahead. "Don't tell me you've never taken another woman home."

"I haven't." Goku scratched his head. "I did go to a woman's house once after going out with Yamcha and Krillin. She was really beautiful, and nice. Her house was huge and she had all these servants who gave me a ton of great food, but she kept looking at me like she wanted to eat me for some reason."

"Because she did." Chi-Chi muttered towards her window.

"Then she let me relax in her hot tub, even though I didn't have anything to change into. She was really nice, up until I decided to go home. Then she got real angry that I didn't want to stay the night." As Chi-Chi turned to blink at Goku in surprise, he met her gaze with an insistent raise of his brows and laughed. "Worse than you get sometimes, Chi-Chi. I don't ever want to see her again."

"Goku," Chi-Chi furrowed her brows as she looked at Goku's honest expression, "are you seriously telling me you...with all these women Krillin and Yamcha have seen throwing themselves at you, you never-"

"Ah!" Goku's eyes bulged as he cocked his head at the sight in front of him. "Your house is so dark."

Chi-Chi inhaled sharply, turning to see her familiar homefront shrouded in darkness ahead. Then she leaned forward to slip her heels back on her feet. "Oh. I must've forgot to turn on the front light."

She had to shake off the confusion she was feeling from her conversation with Goku. She couldn't feel angry with him anymore. He was so bluntly honest about that one woman that Chi-Chi was certain he couldn't be hiding anything from her.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Goku asked after parking the car in her driveway, while Chi-Chi threw her car door open.

Chi-Chi turned to smile over her shoulder at him as she stepped one heel out of the car. "Yes. Thank-" Chi-Chi interrupted herself with a sharp hiss as she winced at the pain caused by putting weight on her foot.

"Hey," Chi-Chi flinched when a strong hand grasped the ankle of her other foot and lifted it slightly, "what'd you do to your feet?"

Chi-Chi bit her lip as she turned to face Goku, his hand still tightly gripping her ankle as he stared at her blistered, dirty foot. "I...I tried to walk home, all right?!"

Goku's brows rose as he released Chi-Chi's ankle and recoiled from her volume. "From the theatre?"

"Not." Chi-Chi grit her teeth. "Not to my house. To my dad's."

"But why? I woulda picked you up, Cheech. That doesn't look good."

"It's fine." In the moment it took for Chi-Chi to glance down at her wounded feet, Goku was already out of the car, coming around to her side. As Goku ducked through the open door to wrap his arms around her back and underneath her, Chi-Chi's eyes bulged. "What are you doing?"

Goku effortlessly swept Chi-Chi out of the car, closed her door with his hip, and carried her bridal-style up the driveway to her front door.

Glaring incredulously at her ex, Chi-Chi gripped the strap of her purse tightly in one hand and used the other to beat a fist into Goku's rock-hard chest, her feet flailing along the way. "Put me down! I can walk!"

"Stop bein' difficult, Chi-Chi." Goku grumbled, his face looking adorably pouty, "we've gotta take care of 'em."

"We don't have to do anything." Chi-Chi said, though her words lost their venom as they reached the front door and Chi-Chi fished her keys out of her purse. "You've done more than enough already, Goku."

As Chi-Chi finally gave up on struggling to free herself from his grasp, Goku snatched the keys from Chi-Chi's hand and skillfully unlocked the door while still carrying her in one arm. "Nah. C'mon."

After Goku heaved the door open with his shoulder and turned on the light switch in the dark entryway, Chi-Chi kicked the front door closed with one of her pointed high heels. Then she kicked both feet to and fro, wiggling her heels off of her toes and onto the entryway wooden floor. They fell with a clatter while Goku focused on moving Chi-Chi down the hall, towards the guest bathroom.

"Goku, put me down." Chi-Chi spoke more calmly, hoping he would listen this time.

To her relief, he did, though they were already just outside the bathroom door by the time her tender feet hit the slippery wooden floor. She fought to hide her discomfort from him, though she couldn't deny that the pain upon touching ground made her grateful for Goku having carried her as far as he did.

"Put 'em in the tub, Chi-Chi." Goku switched on the light, and then grabbed Chi-Chi by the shoulders to guide her to sit on the closed white toilet seat.

He leaned past her as soon as she was seated, his shoulder and ribs brushing against her body as he reached for the chrome bath faucet and twisted it to start the water running. Chi-Chi kicked her feet around as soon as Goku backed away, feeling almost ashamed for being babied like this by him.

Goku knelt on the ground in front of her, looking into the bathtub as it slowly filled with the noisily running water that echoed through the tiny bathroom. The warmth of the water felt good as it filled the tub and soaked her toes, even though it immediately dispersed the dirt from her feet to muddy the water. She didn't look forward to having to clean that tub later.

Goku pulled back from the tub and wrinkled his nose. "Your feet stink, Chi-Chi."

Embarrassed by his comment, Chi-Chi felt her face flush with heat as she glared at the man kneeling beside her. "Let's see how great your feet smell after walking in heels on a nerve-racking date, then trekking through the dark wilderness! I've dealt with you smelling bad plenty of times before and never made a rude comment like that! If I smell that bad, you can just go."

Goku grimaced as Chi-Chi crossed her arms, but shrugged it off with a smile. "Sorry, Chi-Chi. You don't smell bad though. You smell really good, actually. It's just your feet. But they smell better already in the water. You just might wanna use some soap."

"I'll use the soap, all right." Chi-Chi growled as she reached for the bar of soap resting on the ledge of the tub, feeling tempted to chuck it at the back of Goku's head when he turned towards the vanity.

"Chi-Chi," Goku walked on his knees towards the vanity and turned to face her, prompting Chi-Chi to redirect the soap towards her soaking feet, "where do you keep the salve?"

Chi-Chi sighed while turning to begin scrubbing the caked-in dirt from the creases of her feet. "It's under there."

Goku grew quiet as Chi-Chi turned off the water and finished cleaning the filth of the outdoors from her feet with a washcloth. She felt relieved by that little change, though her cuts, scrapes and blisters could really use a treatment from that salve Goku was looking for. She could be doing this all alone, but it felt good to have his company, insulting as her companion could be. Goku was an enigma; he probably always would be.

With a smile and hardly contained breath of laughter, Chi-Chi returned the soap and washcloth to their proper places and pulled the drain, causing the noise of funneling water to join the shuffling sounds of Goku searching through the vanity.

Actually, he should have found the salve already. It was right up front. When Chi-Chi turned to face him, she was surprised to find Goku pulling a pink box of tampons from the vanity with a frown of amusement. "Haven't seen these things in a while. I forgot you need these."

"For cryin' out loud, Goku," Chi-Chi growled, "will you quit touring my vanity and give me the salve already?"

As she thrust her upturned palm at him insistently, Goku met her gaze and nodded. He reached in the vanity to put the tampons back and pull out a small plastic bottle containing Chi-Chi's homemade salve cream. To her displeasure, though, rather than handing it over, he shifted on his knees towards her and gestured for her to turn towards him.

"Let me see." Goku reached for Chi-Chi's feet, but she stubbornly tucked them tightly away from him. "I'll be gentle, just like you always are."

As Chi-Chi watched Goku unscrew the cap and swipe a finger through the greenish cream, she couldn't help softening her resolve. Part of her still wanted to be stubborn about this. She was the mother here, and a grown woman. She could perfectly take care of herself. But Goku's gentle mannerisms and soft gaze were hard to say no to. Slowly, Chi-Chi drew one pointed toe from the porcelain pedestal of the toilet, into Goku's lap as he settled back on his heels.

His salve-coated palm gently swiped across the top of her foot, at first causing Chi-Chi to recoil from the unexpected coolness of it. But when he massaged it in, the warm touch of his skin made the cold disappear. The salve felt soothing to her foot, especially when Goku gently turned her foot over and worked the salve into the sore spot where she'd stepped on something sharp.

As Chi-Chi moaned at the soothing sensation, Goku reached for another dollop of salve. "Feeling better?"

Chi-Chi met his questioning gaze and smiled. "Mm-hm. Much."

As Goku swapped one foot of Chi-Chi's for the other, he looked at her with a smirk. "You shouldn't fight it so much when someone wants to help you."

"I know." Chi-Chi groaned, closing her eyes tightly as Goku's thumb massaged her heel with added pressure. "I'm just...so used to taking care of myself."

Chi-Chi studied Goku's face as he continued massaging her feet in concentration while Chi-Chi enjoyed the rare foot massage. Goku knew the human body well from his training, and had a knack for finding the sorest spots, some that even made other parts of her body relax. She closed her eyes again as she felt as if some knots between her shoulder blades were actually being worked out from Goku's treatment of her feet.

A warm, fluttery sensation against the skin of her salve-coated feet caused Chi-Chi to gasp in surprise and open her eyes again. Goku's lips were pursed as he blew on Chi-Chi's moist toes, the sight making her blush. She was sure he was doing it to help them dry, but Chi-Chi couldn't help feeling turned on by the sight of his lips pursed softly, his chiseled jawline accentuated by the expression he made as his eyes softened while he blew, and his sculpted arms flexing and extending towards her while he held and rolled one foot, then the other.

Goku looked up, smiling at the expression on Chi-Chi's face. "You don't always have to do it alone, you know."

Chi-Chi felt her chest heave as she tried to calm her heart rate and the heated sensation rushing through her body. "I don't?"

"No. You have people that care about you, Chi-Chi. Gohan, Goten and me. And your dad. We'll always take care of you when you need it."

When he released her feet, Chi-Chi felt a rush of disappointment at Goku's mention of everyone else that cared for her, but in spite of that, she couldn't help feeling flattered by him openly admitting that he cared. Chi-Chi stood from the toilet and reached up to let her hair down, the metal pins poking her head from the tight bun having become just as uncomfortable as the shoes after the long evening. "You care about me?"

Goku followed Chi-Chi to his feet and opened his mouth to respond, but as Chi-Chi shook her long hair loose to flow over her bare shoulders, she didn't hear anything from him. She lifted a hand to brush her dark, silky hair out of her face and then gave him a questioning look.

Goku looked a little red in the face as he snapped his mouth shut. "Um...yeah. Of course I do."

Chi-Chi smiled. She felt like hugging him. Gods, it had been so long since she'd been held, really held like the way he used to hold her. And for the first time in years, she actually felt the emotional bond needed for that hug to be fulfilling. But she knew it would be tainted. Tainted by the past and the abandonment; the resentment. She needed to clear the air.

Chi-Chi clasped her hands together in front of her as she asked, "Why?"

Goku blinked. "Why...do I care about you?"

"If you care about me," Chi-Chi said softly, "why did you leave?"

"Aw, Chi-Chi," a sorrowful, apologetic look slowly crossed Goku's face, "that didn't have anythin' to do with whether I cared about you. I just wanted to become a better fighter."

"But you had to know you'd be away from me, our son and our new baby for long stretches of time." Chi-Chi met Goku's gaze as a wave of lonely memories overwhelmed her. "Didn't you even consider how it would affect us?"

Goku's eyes widened before he turned his head to fix his distant gaze towards the drained bathtub with a belated gasp. He looked like he'd just been slapped. Like he was suddenly realizing something that had never occurred to him before. Maybe it hadn't, but Chi-Chi knew she shouldn't have had to say anything. Goku should have realized this on his own. The fact that he didn't until now was almost more painful than the first years of enduring the consequences of his hurtful decision. Chi-Chi felt her eyes well with tears as her vision became watery. She looked away from him as she crossed her arms tightly.

"I-I didn't know." Goku said, snapping his gaze to Chi-Chi as she wiped a tear away with the back of her finger. "You and Gohan, you always seemed so happy. I thought...everyone was happy. Is that why-"

Chi-Chi glared at him, forcing the tears to fall from her eyes and run down her cheeks. "Of course that's why! What good is it being married if you don't see your husband anymore?"

"Chi-Chi..."

Goku moved as if to embrace Chi-Chi, but she couldn't take that now. She pressed her back against the wall and pushed him away from her. "No!"

"Chi-"

Goku extended a hand towards her cheek, but Chi-Chi quickly slapped it away. "You should get home, Goku. You don't want the boys waking up in the middle of the night, wondering where you are."

"The boys are fine, Chi-Chi. I can't leave you like this."

"You will." Chi-Chi closed her eyes and nodded stubbornly. "You will, because I need you to, Goku. Thank you for getting me home, and thank you for being honest with me, but I need you to leave me alone right now."

Goku withdrew his hands and pressed his back against the frame of the bathroom doorway, sighing. Chi-Chi crossed her arms and averted her gaze towards the rectangular vanity mirror, fluttering her eyes as the tears from earlier dried up and left her eyes burning and red as she could see in her reflection.

"Chi-"

"Goodnight, Goku."

Goku took a deep, audible breath, but if he was going to say anything else, he decided to forget about it. Chi-Chi watched in the mirror as his reflection pulled away, disappearing from the mirror, and the room. She listened for his footsteps thrumming through the house, until the creak of the front door swinging opened was followed by the thud of its closure. After a long pause, when she finally heard the hum of the engine starting in the driveway, Chi-Chi clasped her hands together and pressed her clasped fist into her forehead. She leaned back against the wall, sliding down into a heap on the bathroom floor as tears fell down her cheeks. She sobbed heavy and hard, letting it all out once she knew she was alone.

She'd had a terrible night out. And to top it off, she had to expose herself so vulnerably to her ex, only to finally have a real conversation with him and discover that he'd never even considered her feelings all those years ago; still never understood them until tonight. He'd just assumed everything was perfect with his family. If that was true, she wondered what he could have been thinking, back when she sent him those divorce papers.

Painfully, she realized that Bulma's accusation was truer than Chi-Chi would ever want to admit. By her not communicating with Goku back then, and Goku being incapable of seeing how his decisions affected anyone but himself, they both had been cruel to each other and thrown away a perfectly good marriage. Even worse, Chi-Chi felt terrible that Gohan had to lose his father for so long, and Goten had grown up never knowing what it was like to have an intact family, due to their choices. And tonight she'd pushed Goku away, because she couldn't face her own guilt. The revelations were too much to bear. When she finished crying, Chi-Chi just wanted to melt into the peace of her dark and quiet home and disappear from the world. Retiring to bed for a deep sleep seemed like the best idea she'd ever had.

Chapter Text

Long after waking up and forcing down a healthy breakfast, Chi-Chi sat on her carpeted bedroom floor, in her pink plaid flannel pajamas, surrounded by a pile of old family pictures scattered around her. The episode from last night had her reminiscing deeply into that period of time stretching between when Gohan was around the age of nine and Goten was just born - the time of the divorce. Chi-Chi felt the urge to take out pictures and reminisce about those days, maybe because she thought it could be cathartic after last night. Maybe she was hoping to find some reassurance that her decisions back then hadn't been as wrong as she felt they were now.

As Chi-Chi spread the pictures wider across the beige carpet with her fingers fanning gently across the sticky, glossy images, she sought the ones from that time. Her eyes glided over one from the wrong time period, with Gohan and Goten playing together in the yard when Goten was a toddler; she lingered in the memory, on their adorable smiling faces and Goten's chubby cheeks a little longer than intended. With a shake of her head, she moved her eyes down the line, moving aside a picture of her father posed beside her, to reveal one with Goku and the boys.

That one made her pause. They were at a park. Goten was two or three years old, propped in Goku's arms to direct his smile at the camera, while Gohan was standing in front of his kneeling father, placing a hand on Goku's shoulder as father and son wore identical smiles. Chi-Chi remembered that day well.

The day that picture was taken was Goku's first visit to see the boys after the separation. Chi-Chi had anxiously waited to see Goku that day, feeling frightened to face him in person for the first time since filing for divorce. She had been sure Goku must've hated her, as incapable of hate as Goku always seemed. But he didn't. He was so happy to see the boys, so jovial that day, that Chi-Chi almost thought the divorce was all a bad dream she had imagined and his recent period of absence had been nothing more than any other military leave from their early years of marriage.

But when Gohan had gone to bed that night, reality struck. Once alone with her, Goku started acting like a punished child who didn't know what he'd done wrong. Back then, Chi-Chi had reacted by facetiously asking how his training was going. She had been angry because she felt hurt by his behavior, thinking he was putting on an act to make her feel bad.

Now she knew better.

But it was too late to change the past. With an irritated scoff, Chi-Chi put that picture down on her carpet and leaned her back against the side of her bed. She shifted, evading the metal frame she felt digging into her shoulder blade, even as she rested her head against the soft, fluffy down comforter and mattress above the frame.

The familiar, buzzing sound of a phone vibrating drew Chi-Chi's head to the side. She only cast the screen of her phone a brief glance before turning away from it with a sneer. Eighteen was calling.

There was no way Chi-Chi was going to talk to her now. She still wasn't over Eighteen setting her up on that horrible date with her jerk brother. Chi-Chi was sure Eighteen also had to be calling about her car, but that could wait. She'd call her father later to get a ride over there and pick it up, hopefully without having to see Eighteen or Krillin. A moment after the phone finished vibrating from the call, another, solitary vibration followed, alerting Chi-Chi of a new message.

Rolling her eyes, Chi-Chi looked down at the plush carpet scattered with pictures again. She figured it was about time she picked them up. She had to start preparing herself emotionally. Her boys would be coming back to her at night, and Goku would be bringing them. She didn't want the boys to notice any discord between their parents, not when they'd been getting along so well lately. Gohan and Goten had their own problems to worry about, especially Gohan.

Chi-Chi tucked her bare feet under her bottom and swept a hand across the carpet, collecting the photos into a sloppy pile so she could reorganize them and put them back into the clear plastic bin sitting beside her.

As she neatly filed them, one fell out of her hand and landed on the soft carpet, far from the others. Chi-Chi finished replacing the rest, until that last photo was left. She turned to pick it up; her gaze immediately softened when her eyes landed on the image.

A younger version of herself was smiling back at her, with Goku's arm wrapped securely over her shoulder. They had to be in their early twenties at the time, but it was just the two of them in the picture. Chi-Chi didn't remember having that one taken and couldn't place a memory to it, but she was blown away but just how happy she looked in that picture. Goku was in his military uniform, and they were standing in the backyard of this house, prior to some landscaping changes that had happened years ago, which gave her a general idea of the timeframe of the picture. It was definitely from early in their marriage.

Without realizing what she was doing, Chi-Chi found herself smiling as she traced a finger along the line of Goku's youthful, smiling face. She missed being that happy. Her boys kept her happy, and she would never say she was unhappy, but she almost forgot how happy she had been when things were good between her and Goku. Chi-Chi shook her head briskly. That was enough of living in the past.

As Chi-Chi shoved that last picture back into the plastic bin, she stood to her feet and took a deep breath. In spite of any uneasiness she might feel about seeing Goku again after last night, Chi-Chi knew she had a lot to look forward to now. Her boys were coming home once again.


When it was time for their arrival, Chi-Chi went outside, not even bothering to wait for the doorbell. She had dinner ready on the crockpot, she was fully dressed, and her house was clean. She stood there beside her recently-returned white car, dressed casually with her hair in a loose ponytail, tailored light-wash jeans and a white tank top fitting her frame.

As soon as she saw Nimbus approaching, Chi-Chi waved a hand in the air. For a moment, she forgot all about that agonizing conversation with Goku the previous night. She was just so happy to see Gohan smiling back at her through the windshield. As she stepped back, the yellow car noisily pulled into her driveway, parking beside her car.

Chi-Chi cupped a hand to the side of her mouth when the passenger door flew open. "Gohan! Goten!"

She couldn't help laughing giddily as Gohan smiled through the windshield and Goten's spiky head of hair bobbed in the backseat, heading towards the door.

"Hi, Mom." Gohan stepped out of the car first, standing straight and tall, giving Chi-Chi his charming smile. "How was your weekend?"

"Fine." She lied as she rushed forward to hug her oldest son. "How was yours?"

"It was great!" Goten exclaimed, jumping out of the car and bumping Chi-Chi as he came between her and Gohan. "We went fishing yesterday, then we saw Master Roshi and Oolong at the dojo, and today we went swimming at Trunks' house!"

Chi-Chi immediately grimaced at the mention of the swimming. She'd forgotten about their weekend plan with the Briefs, and after the conversation last night, she really hoped Goku didn't say anything to Bulma. Chi-Chi glanced in Goku's direction, realizing too late that her wary glance was the first bit of attention she was giving him since their arrival.

He was standing beside the car, already looking at her when she looked his way, and he frowned as her eyes met his. Chi-Chi knew Goku could see the scrutiny in her gaze. She immediately felt bad for it.

Hoping he wasn't upset about how she'd pushed him away the previous night, Chi-Chi smiled at Goku as she spoke softly to Goten. "That's great. I'm glad you had fun with your Daddy."

Goku smiled back, his usual easygoing manner coming back to him full-force. "Yeah, we had a great time, Cheech! Sorry your weekend wasn't as good."

As Goku snickered and Goten and Gohan frowned curiously at him, Chi-Chi clenched her fists. She couldn't believe he was laughing at her expense after the nightmare she went through.

Goten cocked his head at her. "Why wasn't your weekend good, Mom?"

Gohan raised a brow and placed a hand on his hip. "And what would Dad know about it? We haven't talked to you all weekend."

Chi-Chi clenched her teeth, fighting off the growl and reddening of her face that she could feel coming. Goku and his big mouth. If her boys weren't watching her so closely, she would've slapped that man for saying something so stupid.

"I called your mom last night," Goku supplied with a smile as he stepped around the car to join everyone, "because I wanted to know what time we were comin' over. She had a fight with Eighteen."

"Aunt Eighteen?" Goten looked at Chi-Chi with wide, curious eyes. "What'd she do?"

Chi-Chi's eyes widened before she shook her head and laughed. "What's with all the questions before you've even walked through the door? Get inside! I made chili for dinner."

"Mm, yeah!" Goten pumped a fist in the air and hurried ahead of the others. "I love chili!"

"Me, too." Gohan smiled and stepped forward, before glancing back at Chi-Chi as she and Goku lingered by the cars. "Are you and Eighteen going to be okay?"

"Yeah, honey." Chi-Chi smiled and folded her arms across her chest. "It's just girl issues. We'll work it out."

When Gohan turned for the house with a smile, Chi-Chi snapped her head towards Goku, narrowing her eyes and placing a firm, stilling hand on his chest before he could follow the boys. "What was that?"

Goku gaped at the hand on his chest, then met Chi-Chi's gaze. "What?"

"You told the boys I had a bad weekend. Then you...covered for me."

"Oh! Uh..." Goku chuckled sheepishly, "I only said it to tease ya. I didn't expect the boys to ask so many questions."

Chi-Chi rolled her eyes. "Only you would think you could make a remark like that and not spark questions."

As Goku chuckled again, watching the front door close behind the boys, Chi-Chi followed his gaze and frowned. "Now I have to patch things up with Eighteen soon, or the boys are goin' to worry."

"Huh." Goku rubbed his chin and smiled. "I guess you do."

Chi-Chi huffed and placed her hands on her hips, realizing by Goku's tone that he meant for that to happen. She was amazed that he would do something to intervene with her friendship, especially after the way she'd treated him last night. The terrible way she'd treated him after he showed her such kindness.

Sorrow filled her as she turned an apologetic smile on Goku. "I'm...sorry. About last night."

Staring wide-eyed into Chi-Chi's eyes, Goku gaped. "…You-"

"Mom! Dad!" Gohan's call make Goku's eyes dart to the doorway. "Aren't you coming in for dinner?"

"Umm..." Goku rubbed the back of his head and glanced at Chi-Chi, "I don't think I'm-"

"Of course! We'll be right there." Chi-Chi smiled at her son, then Goku's bewildered expression. "Just give us a minute, Gohan. And help Goten set the table!"

Chi-Chi hoped Gohan heard the end of her instructions, as he was already darting into the house with a nod when she'd called out her last words in a rush.

"Um, Chi-Chi?"

With a smile, Chi-Chi turned to Goku. "Stay for dinner, Goku."

"I thought you were angry at me."

"No." Chi-Chi shook her head. "It would be wrong of me to be angry now for something you did a long time ago. Last night, I was angrier at myself."

When Goku's downturned lips slowly spread into a smile, Chi-Chi turned for the house, stopping when Goku placed a stilling hand on her forearm. His simple touch was like electricity to her in that moment. She couldn't move away even if his fingers were barely touching her prickling skin.

"I know it doesn't mean anything now, but I'm sorry, too." Chi-Chi inhaled deeply, raising her eyes to look at the rare, serious look in Goku's eyes as he spoke. "Sorry for bein' selfish back then."

Chi-Chi opened her mouth, searching for a reply to Goku's apology, but instead of her voice, a much younger voice shouted out. "Mo-om! The table's set. C'mon, I'm starving!"

Chi-Chi gasped, turning to see Goten swinging by one hand from the doorknob of the front door, which caused Goku to laugh. "Goten can't wait! It does smell like some irresistible food coming from the house."

"Goten," Chi-Chi bared her teeth as her son pulled repeatedly and abusively on her swinging front door, "get your hand off that knob right now!"

Goten's eyes widened as he immediately released the knob and clapped his hands together. "Sorry!"

"And you," Chi-Chi cast a sidelong glance at Goku, "how can you possibly smell dinner from out here?"

"You know me." Goku laughed as he rubbed his stomach. "I have a nose for your cooking!"

"So," Chi-Chi smirked, "I guess you are staying for dinner."

"Yeah," Goku glanced over his shoulder at Chi-Chi as he started hurrying for the door, "and I can't wait!"

Watching Goku's back as he skipped across the stone walkway and joined Goten to hurry into the house, Chi-Chi shook her head. "Honestly, he's just as bad as the children."

Smirking to herself, Chi-Chi crossed her arms and followed them through her open front door. Once she crossed the threshold, she immediately noticed the delicious, spicy-sweet chili aroma to which she had become immune while spending her day with it in the house. She was actually looking forward to serving dinner with Goku joining them. She didn't mind having another hungry mouth to feed, not when that mouth had sweet words to say to her.


"Mom," Goten thrust his empty, chili-stained bowl forward, "can I please have some more?"

Chi-Chi finished blowing on her spoonful of steaming hot chili, wrapped her mouth around the hot, savory food, and nodded as she chewed and prepared to stand and take his bowl. Before she could do that, Goten's bowl was swiped from his tiny hands right before her eyes.

Goku twirled the bowl in one hand as he carried his own empty bowl carelessly in the other. "I'll get it! I'm getting more for myself anyways."

Chi-Chi balked, then glanced at Gohan as he continued quietly eating, nearly reaching the bottom of his bowl. "Are you going to want more, Gohan?"

Gohan hummed through his mouthful of food, and then shook his head as he swallowed. "I'm good. It's delicious, Mom. But I'm getting pretty full. And besides, I'm going to have to spend some time before bed tonight getting ready for the big week at school."

"It's a big week?" Chi-Chi blinked, while Goku returned to the table, setting one full bowl of steaming chili in front of Goten and sitting down with another. "Do you need any help?"

As Goten and Goku began savagely indulging in their food, Gohan shook his head at her. "I just want my best work to show this week, that's all."

Chi-Chi's eyes widened as she realized that Gohan was referring to the teacher conference during the week, and then glared reprovingly at Goten and Goku for their sloppy eating. The look was all that was needed for her son to instantly show better etiquette at the table, but his father required stronger measure. Chi-Chi kicked Goku beneath the table, causing him to jump and cry out, which interrupted Gohan.

When Goku pouted at Chi-Chi, but slowed down his eating, Gohan blinked and resumed, "This week is conference week, so I want to be sure I'm doing well."

"We have…" Goku swallowed a mouthful of food and raised a brow at Gohan, "…to go to a conference?"

"Yes, that's right. Goku," Chi-Chi grit her teeth, "I forwarded you the email from his professor."

"What do we need conferences for? Gohan's doin' great, isn't he?"

"Yes, but that's beside the point."

"Conferences are helpful for the parents and the professors, Dad." Gohan supplied as he licked the chili sauce off his lips and set his spoon in the empty bowl from his finished meal. "And mom wants to go."

As Chi-Chi smiled at Gohan, Goku frowned. "That's fine if she wants to. But why do I have to go?"

"You know what, Goku?" Chi-Chi glared and shook her spoon at him. "You don't have to go. I'll go myself. It'll be better for everyone that way."

Gohan frowned. "Are you sure, Mom?"

"Good idea, Chi-Chi." Goku smiled cheerily and scooped another mound of chili into his mouth. "Hobe you hab ffun!"

Chi-Chi met Gohan's eyes. "Yes, I'm sure."

Gohan raised his brows, looked at his innocently blinking little brother, then gave his mother an accepting smile and nod. Chi-Chi smiled back, then slurped one of her last bites of chili from the lip of her spoon. She was almost done eating, and it looked like everyone else was finally getting full.

"So," Chi-Chi felt her stomach flutter with nerves as she sipped her water before dabbing her face with her napkin, "what did you all have to talk about at Bulma's today?"

Gohan frowned dismissively and sipped his water. "Not much."

"We swam, Mom!" Goten said, smiling at her with a reddish-brown chili moustache and beard painted around his mouth. "Did you know Dad can hold his breath for almost eight minutes?"

Chi-Chi smiled and mimed to Goten the motion of wiping his face. "Really?"

Gohan almost spat his drink out as he laughed and exchanged a glance with his father. "Not eight minutes, Goten! It was more like four."

"Yu-huh!" Goten wiped his face coarsely as Goku chuckled in amusement. "And Uncle Vegeta can do it even longer!"

Chi-Chi raised a brow. "Vegeta went swimming?"

"No." Gohan scowled at Goten, then smirked at Goku. "That's just what Trunks told Goten."

"So all of you went swimming today?"

"Yeah!" Goten licked his lips clean, savoring the last tidbits of flavor from his meal as everyone pushed their bowls aside. "Can we do it again soon, Dad?"

Chi-Chi caught Goku casting a quick glance at her before he smiled at Goten. "I don't see why not!"

After Chi-Chi laughed and stood to clear her dish from the table, Gohan shot to his feet. "Here, Mom. I'll get it."

As Gohan took the dish from her hand and stacked it on top of his, Chi-Chi beamed. "Thank you, Gohan."

Gohan walked into the kitchen with a smile on his face, while Goten sat in his seat, curiously regarding his parents. "Dad, why have you been staying for dinner so much lately?"

Goku looked at Goten with wide eyes before looking to Chi-Chi. While she was staring back at Goku, Chi-Chi couldn't help noticing that Gohan froze his actions over in the kitchen.

Finally, Goku furrowed his brows and rubbed the back of his head, "well...I don't know, really."

Chi-Chi felt deflated by his answer. She felt her shoulders slump as she frowned at him. Goten's observation had her wondering if maybe there was a meaningful reason for Goku's more consistent presence lately. But now, she knew he hadn't intended to see more of her.

"Mom?" Goten asked. "Can Dad stay for dinner every night?"

Chi-Chi sighed woefully, meeting that heart-melting gaze from her young son's eyes. He was so full of hope, so oblivious to their harsh reality, that she wished she could tell him yes. But she would never lie to her children. "Oh, honey..."

"If I stayed for dinner every night," Goku laughed, "your mom wouldn't have enough room in this house anymore for all the food she'd need to keep!"

Gohan's face, which had been tense since Goten began asking questions, slowly eased into a smile as he chuckled breathily.

Goku's smile widened as his eyes darted to Gohan. "Since Gohan's become a teenager, he eats almost as much as me. And then there's you!"

As Goku reached across the table and poked a finger gently into his chest, Goten giggled.

Chi-Chi laughed, shaking her head. "Who knew little Goten could have an appetite big enough to compete with his father's! The apple didn't fall far from the tree with this one."

"Yeah," Goku smiled fondly at Goten's blushing face, "but he's still his own kid."

Chi-Chi beamed at Goten, then Goku, sharing mutual pride with him when their eyes met. Both of their children were something to be proud of; which was something Chi-Chi knew Goku felt as much as she did.

"Hey, Dad," Gohan shuffled past Chi-Chi, around the table, collecting most of the remaining dirty bowls, "when I'm done cleaning up, do you think you'll have some time to throw the football around before you leave?"

Goku frowned, looking disappointed himself with the inevitable 'no' he was about to give - he'd overstayed his usual welcome already - when Chi-Chi rushed to speak before him. "I'll finish the dishes, Gohan. You two get out there before it gets too dark."

Gohan and Goku both blinked at Chi-Chi, until Goten jumped out of his seat. "Me, too! I want to play!"

Chi-Chi giggled and grabbed the last few napkins and dishes Gohan hadn't already collected from the table. "Yes, you too, Goten. But bedtime is coming. You'd better hurry up!"

"Chi-Chi..."

Chi-Chi glanced up from the table, dishes piled in her arms as she smiled genuinely at Goku's frowning face. "I don't mind. Really. Go play."

"Are you sure, Mom?"

Chi-Chi hummed as she nodded at Gohan, who still had dirty utensils in his hand. "Put those in the sink, Gohan. I'll take care of the rest."

"You wanna play too, Chi-Chi?"

Chi-Chi snapped her head towards Goku, surprised and flattered by the invitation. "N-no, but thank you for asking. I really would rather make sure I have a clean kitchen when I wake up in the morning. I'll watch from in here."

Goku nodded, a smile lighting his face when he realized Chi-Chi was sincere about wanting him and the boys to have fun. He wouldn't see them again for two weeks, so it was the least she could do. She loved seeing them all so happy together.

Goten whizzed past her legs, causing Chi-Chi to brace a hand against the countertop beside her from the force of his movement. She laughed as Goku let out a whoop of glee, leading his boys outside by sliding open the squeaking glass doors just off the dining room, while Gohan struck a hand into the plastic bin beside the door, where all their balls were neatly stored.

Gohan pulled out a leather football, tossing it and catching it in one hand as he turned a smirk on his mother. "Thanks, Mom."

Chi-Chi became absorbed in watching the three of them as they went outside together, just goofing off in the grass just beyond the open glass doors she was staring through. Goten started cartwheeling and flipping around the outskirts of the fenced-in lawn, while Gohan tossed the ball effortlessly to his father and ran clear out of Chi-Chi's view. She slid the transparent door closed, watching as Goku struck a pose with the football, poised to throw it as his brows lowered in concentration.

Chi-Chi shook her head, forcing herself to get to work in the kitchen as she turned away from the sliding doors. She'd stopped herself just in time. She realized that even more than her boys' smiling faces, or the beautiful sunset in the sky, or Goku's form with throwing the ball, she was ogling Goku's shape. The dwindling sunlight was highlighting his muscles with the shadows it cast from the pickets of the fence, and with the breeze fluttering his soft orange t-shirt, Chi-Chi could make out every muscle, every sinewy movement of Goku's powerful body when he moved.

As she went to work, getting her hands wet and scrubbing her dishes under a chrome faucet, Chi-Chi decided she was just glad the boys were having fun. The cold water on her hands helped to keep her focused, to keep her mind from wandering back to the peaks of Goku's smooth biceps, the deep crevice between his sculpted pecs, the temptation to run to that sliding door and sneak another peek.

Dammit, the cold wasn't doing her any good anymore. Chi-Chi wrinkled her nose and lowered her brows as she focused intently on her dishes, violently scrubbing away the more caked-on stains. She focused on the scent of the dishsoap, the soothing sight of an occasional bubble floating out of the sink, the joyous sounds of yelling and laughter from her backyard, and eventually, was able to calm her body from its heated state.

When the dishes were all washed, Chi-Chi dried her hands on the dishrag, before placing her hands on her hips and smiling proudly at her work. After about twenty minutes of scrubbing, she had a beautiful, clean kitchen in front of her, and would only need to put away the clean dishes once the boys went to bed. But now, she supposed it was time that Goku went home. The boys had school in the morning.

Tucking a stray strand of her behind her ear, Chi-Chi made her way around the kitchen counter and stepped into the dining room. When she turned to look out the sliding glass doors, her mouth fell open.

Gohan had traded positions with his father and was poised to throw the football, while Goku was running full speed across the lawn with Goten at his side, who was lagging just a little behind his father.

His shirtless, sweaty father.

Goku's orange shirt had found its way to the grass, crumpled and abandoned off to the side while the boys played. Goten's clothes had a few tears and grass stains from their play, while Gohan looked remarkably kempt after the apparent rough play they'd been having. His most apparent signs of wear were his heavy panting and the glistening coat of sweat above his brow. But Goku...

Chi-Chi bit her lip, watching as Goku flexed his abs and arms in the motion of jumping and catching the flying football Gohan threw his way. As soon as his feet hit the ground again, Goten yelled at Goku and tried to tackle his father to the ground by clinging to his waist. His efforts of pulling Goku to the ground with his weight never would've taken Goku down, but nevertheless, Goku fell with Goten, laughing as he rolled around in the grass and clutched the football to his chest.

Chi-Chi laughed as well when she saw the way Goten climbed all over his fallen father, trying desperately to pry the football from his arms. They were both getting filthy in the grass as Goten began tickling his father to loosen his grip, but Chi-Chi didn't care. She pressed a hand to her cheek as her shoulders shook with her quiet laughter. This was the kind of thing Goten had missed earlier in his childhood, and Chi-Chi felt like Goku was finally making up for lost time with him. Also, seeing Gohan playing outside with his father reminded Chi-Chi of the old days, when Goku did stay for dinner every night.

Chi-Chi stepped through the sliding glass door with her head lowered as she watched not to trip over the metal threshold. She inspected the couple of weeds beginning to poke through her concrete patio, making a note to take care of those in the morning. When she looked up from there, she wasn't prepared to see Goku looking directly at her, but he was coming her way. Behind Goku, Goten tossed Gohan the ball, while his older brother coached him on how to improve the next throw.

As Goten caught the ball thrown back to him by Gohan, Goku glanced over his shoulder. "That's it, Goten. Nice catch!"

Chi-Chi crossed her arms, trying to hide her uneasiness as she smiled at Goku. "Having fun?"

"Yeah."

"Dad!" Gohan panted. "Your turn!"

Goku glanced back at Gohan. "I've gotta talk to your mom for a minute! You two play."

Chi-Chi raised her brows, intrigued by Goku's need to talk to her. Maybe their earlier apologies out front sparked something more he needed to say. They never finished that conversation, after all. Maybe the way they'd been getting along better lately had him thinking differently about their arrangement. Maybe he was inspired by Goten's idea and wanted to ask Chi-Chi if it was all right to spend more time around the kids. Maybe he wanted to spend more time with her.

Chi-Chi felt her heart pounding in her chest as Goku came nearer, his sweaty, glistening muscles becoming even more evident as his musky scent filled her nostrils. She didn't know what she would say if he proposed something along those lines. Did she want to start spending time with Goku again? She wasn't sure if she could stand to get her hopes up that this could go well, only to end up disappointed. Either way, Chi-Chi was going to maintain a solid front, even if her gorgeous ex that she was determined to keep at arm's length was standing in front of her, catching his breath from his exercise, his exposed chest and shoulders spattered with bits of dirt and grass.

"So," Chi-Chi maintained a cool front as she shook her head away from a loose strand of hair flapping in the wind, "same time two weeks from now, right?"

"Actually," Goku flashed a smile at her which was brilliant enough to draw her eyes away from his chest, "that's what I wanted to talk to you about. Master Kai found a good fight for me."

Chi-Chi choked back in disbelief. "A fight? You mean you're going away again?"

Of course. She should have seen this coming.

"Yeah," Goku laughed, "they're not bringin' the fight here! Master Kai says this guy's unbeatable. They call him The Destroyer."

Chi-Chi scowled. "For how long this time?"

Goku blinked. "Just a couple of days, but it's on that weekend-"

Chi-Chi grit her teeth, glaring at Goku as she clenched her fists by her sides. "You're canceling your visit with the boys?"

"Just...this once."

As Goku warily grimaced at her, Chi-Chi could hear her teeth grinding. But she unclenched her teeth just long enough to say, "Yeah. Sure."

With a glance towards the yard behind Goku, Chi-Chi realized the boys were no longer throwing the football around.

Goku furrowed his brows. "Sure? As in...okay?"

Chi-Chi forged a smile on her face. "Yes. Go ahead, Goku. I can't stop you. But don't you ever think about canceling on the boys again, or I promise I will make your life hell."

"But Chi-Chi," Goku balked, "fighting is my life."

"I know it is!"

Goku shook his head rapidly. "I mean, livelihood."

"You said," Chi-Chi uttered through her forced smile as she was well aware of Gohan watching her now, "just this once. So I'm going to hold you to that. Fight all you want, but keep the boys out of it."

Goku cocked his head. "I am keeping the boys out of it."

Chi-Chi inclined her chin towards Goku, thrusting a finger into his well-defined chest that no longer seemed impressive, not when he was being a selfish jerk again. "Good. I'll keep the boys that weekend, but you're going to tell them."

Goku smiled, though his eyes looked sad when he met Chi-Chi's gaze. "I already did."

"Oh." Chi-Chi frowned towards her sons, surprised to find that they weren't sad or even appearing to be emotionally damaged from the news. "And they're okay with it?"

"Yeah," Goku glanced back at them, waving before he turned to Chi-Chi again, "but Goten wanted me to ask you if he can stay up late that night to watch the fight."

Chi-Chi scoffed. "They want to watch?"

"What's wrong with that?"

"What's wrong with it?" Chi-Chi shook her head and grabbed Goku by the crease of the elbow, pulling him through the sliding doors with her.

She needed to continue this conversation inside. She didn't want the boys to overhear them, because she didn't want to upset them. She could feel their eyes burning into her and Goku, and she wanted them to get back to playing football.

As she slid the glass door closed, Chi-Chi glared at Goku. "What's wrong with it," she huffed, "is that I don't want our boys to be traumatized like I was when I watched your first fight."

"Traumatized?" Goku twisted his brow. "I won that fight."

Chi-Chi bared her teeth. "After that jerk broke several bones and practically maimed you. It's amazing you recovered from all those injuries."

"Ah, you worry too much, Chi-Chi." Goku smiled and patted Chi-Chi's shoulder. "Nothin' like that's gonna happen again."

Chi-Chi growled in frustration. In spite of his sweet behavior lately, Goku hadn't changed one bit, or apparently learned anything. Chi-Chi couldn't believe she actually thought anything could change.

"You know what?" Chi-Chi threw up her hands. "It's not my problem."

Goku's lips turned down in a deep frown. "You're angry."

"No, I'm not."

"Why are you angry?"

"I said I'm not!"

Goku frowned at Chi-Chi's tightly clenched fists, her tense jaw, and then met her eyes with a knowing frown. "Does this have somethin' to do with what we talked about last night?"

Chi-Chi's eyes widened before she glared again. "Goku, I don't want you messin' up with the boys like you messed up with me. You don't even seem to realize when you're making selfish choices."

"Chi-Chi, I love our kids," Goku frowned with determination and shook his head, "but I'm never gonna stop fighting. It's who I am."

"You keep this up, and they're goin' to stop looking for you one day. I had enough of waiting on you, and I loved you more-" Chi-Chi grit her teeth as Goku's eyes softened and he came closer, his naked skin nearly brushing against hers as he reached for her.

Chi-Chi tore her arm away from his reach. "And would you put a shirt on?!"

Goku froze, his eyes going wide before he took a step back. He glanced down at his naked chest, brushed off a sticky blade of grass, and then looked up at Chi-Chi with a shrug as his voice softened. "Okay. Hey, it's just one fight, Chi-Chi. I'm really not goin' anywhere."

"Fine." Chi-Chi shrugged as Goku reached for the sliding door. "You already told the boys, so there's nothing more to discuss. I guess I'll see you in about a month."

"You'll let them watch, right?"

Chi-Chi scoffed through her teeth. "Fine. Just text me when and where to watch it."

Goku smiled and threw a thumb over his shoulder, towards the outdoor scene of descending darkness and their sons playing in the yard. "Well, I'm going to say goodbye to Gohan and Goten."

Chi-Chi nodded as Goku hesitated, before turning to face her directly. "Since I won't see you again for a while," Goku surprised Chi-Chi by stepping forward and wrapping his bare arms tightly around her, "take care."

Chi-Chi gasped in the embrace, before Goku pulled away from the brief hug, removing his warm, solid chest from hers.

As he turned to pull the sliding door open, Goku laughed light-heartedly. "And you might not want to go on anymore dates while I'm gone."

Chi-Chi smiled, though she was still sad. There was some humor in the thought of her dating again, running into a similar situation and not having Goku around to rescue her. Or more so, in the surreal reality of the fact that it had actually happened the previous night. And in spite of how much Chi-Chi felt nervous about Goku leaving for another fight, and how angry it made her that he was canceling his weekend with the boys, she also understood how much that fight meant to Goku.

"Goku," Chi-Chi clasped a fisted hand to her fluttering heart, waiting for Goku's eyes to lock on hers again, "good luck."

Goku's smile nearly reached his ears as he stepped out the door. "Thanks, Chi-Chi."

Chapter Text

Before getting out of her car, Chi-Chi checked the time on her dashboard, relieved to find the time was seven-fifteen. The time of her conference. She wasn't late, as she feared she would be when hurriedly leaving the boys and making her way out of the house.

As Chi-Chi climbed out of her car and made her way through the parking lot, she noted many other people coming and going to and from their cars with serious faces, likely meeting with their children's respective teachers. When Chi-Chi stepped up on the curb to the teal entry door of the school, she slipped from her purse the small sheet of paper where she'd written the professor's name and room number, as well as the time.

Her heart raced in her chest as she traveled down the fluorescent-lighted hallway, past closed doors towards the number written on her paper. She hoped this Mr. Shu had good things to tell her about Gohan's education. She hoped she was presenting herself well for this meeting. She didn't want to give the professor the impression that Gohan wasn't being raised right, just because his parents weren't together. Hopefully, the professor didn't have to know that.

At a door located just short of the end of the hall, Chi-Chi raised her chin and took a deep breath. Then she pulled on the door handle, intending to walk into the classroom with poise and grace, when someone stormed from inside the room, practically running her over.

Chi-Chi stumbled back to avoid a crash, then glared at the tall man grunting in surprise. "Hey, watch it!"

"E-excuse me. Hey." Chi-Chi raised a brow at the dark-haired man's change in tone. "It's you."

"Excuse me? I don't think we've-"

"You! From the sushi bar parking lot!"

"Hm?" Chi-Chi cocked her head, scrutinizing the curly-haired man with a mustache in a dress shirt and slacks, recalling the last time she'd been at the sushi bar. "Oh."

The man crossed his hairy arms. "What are you doing here?"

"Mr. Satan, Mrs. Son," a third voice chimed in from the far-end of the classroom, "you two know each other?"

Chi-Chi blinked, glancing towards the third man in the room. Satan…Satan...

That name sounded vaguely familiar. The professor raised a brow at them, his hair even more curly than Mr. Satan's, frowning at the pair as they stared back at each other for a moment. Then Chi-Chi gasped as it finally clicked, how she knew that name. Videl Satan.

"Yes, yes." Mr. Satan raised his chin proudly after hearing Chi-Chi's gasp of realization. "I am the great cham-"

"You're Videl's father!"

"H-how do you know Videl?"

"Mrs. Son," Professor Shu stood to join the pair in his doorway, "don't you know that Mr. Satan is a local celebrity? He's a reigning wrestling champion."

"Oh." Chi-Chi turned her gaze back to Satan, unimpressed by his status. "Your daughter and my son know each other."

As Chi-Chi smiled giddily, thinking what a great opportunity this was for her to finally meet Videl, the professor placed his hands on his hips. "Of course they know each other. Gohan and Videl are classmates."

"Gohan?!" Satan sneered as he looked at Chi-Chi in shock. "That little punk my daughter's been carrying on about?"

"Hm," with a sneer, Professor Shu removed his glasses and shined them with the hem of his sweater vest, "punk."

Chi-Chi's wide eyes narrowed to tiny slits as she growled at the men. "My Gohan is no punk! How dare you grown men throw around insults like that about a decent, smart boy!"

Mr. Satan's eyes bulged in alarm while he cowered from Chi-Chi's loud voice and aggressive stance. "S-sorry! It's just that Videl-"

"Mrs. Son," Mr. Shu interrupted with his lips tightly pursed, "I have concerns about your son. I've seen some delinquent behavior-"

"Gohan is no delinquent!" Chi-Chi grit her teeth and barely restrained herself from slapping the professor. "I came here to hear about what Gohan's been learnin', not to hear you judge my son!"

Mr. Shu's eyes narrowed. "Education isn't Gohan's problem. He's doing fine there. But-"

"That's all I need to know."

As Mr. Shu balked indignantly, Mr. Satan stepped in and placed a hand on the irritable professor's shoulder. "Mr. Shu, I appreciate the meeting I had with you about Videl. I'll let Mrs. Son know about the materials the children are studying. And please," he added with a toothy smile to Chi-Chi, "show some respect for your students."

Chi-Chi formed her lips into a hard line, prepared to dig in her heels and give the professor a piece of her mind about his unprofessional behavior, but Mr. Satan was insistently trying to shove her out of the classroom. She could've fought it, but Mr. Satan did come to her aid, and she was curious what the father of Videl would have to say to her.

With a latent growl towards the grumbling professor being left behind, Chi-Chi reluctantly stumbled into the hall with Mr. Satan and huffed as the door slammed behind them. "Some respect, indeed. No wonder Gohan was concerned about my meeting with his professor."

Mr. Satan groaned. Whether it was out of irritation or worry, Chi-Chi couldn't tell. But when he rubbed a hand in his hair and cast a frown towards Mr. Shu's door, Chi-Chi knew the man looked displeased. "You know, I thought Mr. Shu was a great professor, until I heard the way he talked to you."

"Oh, really?" Chi-Chi's eyes narrowed. "I heard you insulting my son in there."

"I have my reasons!" Mr. Satan said stubbornly. "But he-well-"

"He's just a jerk." Chi-Chi crossed her arms. "And he seemed nice to you just 'cause he was suckin' up to his local celebrity parent."

"I guess you're right about that." Mr. Satan sighed. "Fame and fortune can hide the truth about people from you sometimes."

"Fortune?" Chi-Chi whispered to herself, placing a finger to her bottom lip, intrigued by the thought.

Gohan had never mentioned Videl having money, or her father being some famous wrestler, but it did seem exciting, the prospect of Gohan dating a girl who was rich. Chi-Chi briefly wondered how big their house was, and if Gohan's family would ever be invited over there.

"And fame." Mr. Satan raised his chin proudly. "You know, I was really insulted that night in the parking lot that you didn't know who I was."

Chi-Chi snickered. "Well, not all of us watch wrestling, Mr. Satan. Isn't the fighting fake anyways?"

Mr. Satan's eyes bulged before his brows lowered in a glare. "I don't use any tricks in my fights!"

"Sorry," Chi-Chi shrugged, "it's just that my ex is a professional fighter. I've done some fighting myself, and nothing I've ever seen on those shows-"

"Your ex is a pro?" Mr. Satan raised a brow. "Gohan's father?"

"Yes." Chi-Chi nodded and smiled. "He's just left town for his next fight, actually. So, what did Mr. Shu have to say about the education he's giving our children?"

"Oh. Right." Mr. Satan rubbed his hands briskly together and took a deep breath. "They're writing an American history essay right now, as well as some poetry –haikus, I believe. He says that..."

As Mr. Satan continued divulging to Chi-Chi the details of Gohan's studies, Chi-Chi half-listened, gasping at an idea that occurred to her. She couldn't help wondering, since first seeing Mr. Satan, what Videl looked like. Now she really wanted to meet the girl, because she found it hard to believe that Gohan could be interested in a girl who resembled that man, in personality or appearance. Speaking to Mr. Satan, and learning of his interest in fighting, gave her the perfect opportunity to finally meet the girl.

"Mr. Satan," Chi-Chi smiled as the man grunted in surprise at her interruption of his monologue, "how would you and Videl like to come over for supper?"

"H-huh?"

Chi-Chi shrugged shyly, realizing belatedly that she'd made a very forward suggestion. "It's just that my ex, well, his fight will be on TV while he's out of town next weekend..." Chi-Chi took a deep breath, internally cringing at the disbelieving look on Mr. Satan's face, "and we're all going to watch it. Gohan said something about Videl being interested in fighting, and since you are too, well..."

As Chi-Chi gnawed on her bottom lip and hesitantly met Mr. Satan's gaze, his perplexed expression finally lit with a look of realization in his eyes. "I'm...sure it won't be nearly as entertaining as wrestling, but I guess I really am curious to meet your boy, if Videl's going to continue to insist on talking to him."

Chi-Chi met Mr. Satan's gaze with a stern look. "If they really are an item, your daughter is a lucky girl. I just need to see that my son isn't the one getting the short end of the stick here."

"Short...? Ugh!" Mr. Satan gasped, before baring his teeth at Chi-Chi. "My Videl is the most special girl in this high school and your boy better be tough and smart or he's not going anywhere near her again except to sit behind his desk!"

"Ha!" Chi-Chi crossed her arms and raised her chin proudly. "My Gohan is that and more. It's your daughter I'm worried about."

"Fine!" Mr. Satan reached in the back pocket of his black slacks and pulled out his phone. "It's settled then. We'll come for dinner. What's your number?"

Chi-Chi smirked as she rattled off her phone number and pulled her own phone from her purse. This night hadn't been a productive meeting with Gohan's teacher, and to that end, Chi-Chi wasn't finished yet. But the surprising outcome of the evening so far still pleased her. She was finally going to get to meet Gohan's girlfriend.

When Chi-Chi received a test text from an unknown number, she looked up at Mr. Satan with a nod. While he deposited his phone back in his pocket, Chi-Chi returned hers to her purse.

Extending his hand to her, Mr. Satan chuckled. "The name's Hercule, by the way."

Chi-Chi shook his hand, laughing. "Chi-Chi."

"And I guess that's Ms. Chi-Chi Son, hm?"

"Ah, well, technically."

Hercule smirked at her, causing Chi-Chi to withdraw her hand from his, frowning.

"That's smart." Hercule gave her a wink. "Keeping the same name as the kids."

"And," Chi-Chi rubbed her dampened palms against the sides of her hips and cleared her throat, "what is Mrs. Satan's first name?"

"It was Miguel." Hercule lowered his head. "But sadly, she passed away shortly after Videl was born."

"Oh!" Chi-Chi cupped a hand over her mouth. "I'm so sorry."

"It was a long time ago. I'll always miss her, but that doesn't mean I can't move on and enjoy my life. It's what she would have wanted me to do."

Chi-Chi sighed, averting her gaze as she clasped her hands together. She didn't know how she would feel in Hercule's shoes. If Goku had died while they were still happily married, like during the days she'd recently recalled while looking at family photos, she didn't know if she would have been able to move on. Even given years to recover from his loss, she couldn't ever picture herself doing that. Hell, Goku wasn't even dead, just disconnected and occasionally brain dead, and she hadn't even been able to move on after seven years.

"Well," Chi-Chi sighed, "I guess it's good for Videl that you're able to move on."

Hercule smirked, his gaze making Chi-Chi uncomfortable again as she shifted her stance and gripped her purse strap slung over her shoulder.

"Is this Mr. Shu's room?" The voice of a blonde woman stepping beside Chi-Chi and glancing at the door past her made Chi-Chi and Hercule both turn towards the woman.

"You have a conference scheduled with the professor?" Hercule asked.

As the woman nodded and tried to brush past her, Chi-Chi pressed her palm firmly against the closed door. "You don't want to have a conference with this professor."

While the woman balked at Chi-Chi, Hercule shot her an appeasing smile. "Allow me. I can tell you all about what our children have been learning at this school."

When Hercule's hand pressed against the small of the woman's back, Chi-Chi watched the woman gasp in awe. "Are you...Hercule Satan, the wrestler?"

Chi-Chi rolled her eyes and turned away from Hercule's smug grin and the dreamy-eyed woman, calling over her shoulder, "I'll text you the details for dinner. Make sure you're there, and Videl better be with you."

When she faced forward again, hearing a questioning gasp from the woman and an understanding grunt from Hercule, Chi-Chi pressed her lips together and smiled. She was ready to return home, almost. Before she did, she still had a disrespectful professor to put in his place. One stop at the principal's office would help Gohan more than any parent-teacher meeting ever would. Chi-Chi wasn't going to stand for that ignorant man teaching her son any longer. She would go home from this meeting with plenty of nice surprises for Gohan.


Toys stuffed between the couch cushions. Empty glasses left on the coffee table. A smudge of dust on the top of the TV. Chi-Chi made her way around the house, finding and tending to each untidy item, glancing at the clock as the time of their arrival approached.

"Mom," Gohan crossed his arms and sunk into the couch cushions, with his brother sitting beside him, "why don't you just tell us who's coming over?"

Chi-Chi's gaze shot to her sons, her eyes widening as she took in their appearances. They were certainly dressed nicely enough, as she had requested. But Goten still didn't have shoes on, and Gohan's hair was slightly out of place. Gohan would want to look nice if he knew who was about to arrive at their house for dinner and the viewing of the fight.

Reaching a hand to fix her eldest son's hair, Chi-Chi kneeled between both sons. "Goten, put your shoes on, sweetheart. They'll be here any minute."

"Who, Mom?"

"And why," Gohan laughed as he flinched from Chi-Chi's touch, "are you so excited?"

Chi-Chi smiled at Gohan's handsome appearance as she fussed with the arrangement of the spikes of his cropped black hair, then Goten's curious expression. "Be polite to our guests, Goten. You'll both want to give a nice impression to our company."

As Chi-Chi swiftly stood and turned, preparing to address more menial issues around her house, she heard Gohan whisper to his brother. "Mom must...a date…serious...him over."

"But Gohan," Goten whispered more loudly, "what if he stays here long and doesn't want to watch Dad's fight? I don't want to miss it!"

Chi-Chi smiled slyly to herself as she continued her work, pretending she didn't hear them. She knew Gohan would appreciate the surprise of who their guests were when the Satans arrived. How could he not enjoy watching his father's fight with his girlfriend? At least if the fight went badly, he'd have the girl he liked so much there to comfort him. Then Chi-Chi could really see the girl's true colors.

When a clatter sounded from outside, Goten sprang from the couch. "Someone's here!"

The doorbell prompted Gohan to stand and Chi-Chi to hurriedly tuck a pile of junk mail into a side-table drawer as a final effort at making the house presentable.

"I'll get it!"

Chi-Chi's eyes widened as Goten raced past her to the door. "Goten, wait!"

She followed him, with Gohan by her side, and took a sharp breath as Goten flung the front door wide open before she could prepare herself mentally for this unveiling. Hercule Satan stood on the other side, frowning with a bouquet of daisies in his hands, while a pretty, petite teenager with striking blue eyes, in dark-haired pigtails, jeans, and a pretty floral blouse stood with her hands on her hips, scowling by his side.

Both guests glanced at Goten's smiling face, then looked up at Gohan and Chi-Chi. A fleeting look of recognition crossed Hercule's face before he panned his gaze from Chi-Chi to Gohan. Both of the Satans' expressions changed notably as they focused on the gaping, flushing young man in Chi-Chi's front doorway. While Hercule's frown deepened and his brows lowered into a glare, the girl's face became nearly as red as Gohan's.

She gasped, before slapping the back of her hand against her father's stiff arm. "Dad! You didn't tell me you knew Gohan's mom!"

"Ummm," Gohan's eyes flitted to Chi-Chi, "Mom?"

Chi-Chi beamed, closing her eyes briefly in contentment as she suppressed a squeal and clasped her hands together to control her excitement. "You must be Videl!"

"Yes!" Hercule ushered Videl forward with one hand while clasping his leaf-shedding bouquet of daisies in the other, "Videl, say hello to Mrs. Son."

Videl stumbled towards Chi-Chi, before casting a glare at her father. "H-hello, Mrs. Son." Then she turned towards Gohan. "Hi, Gohan."

"Welcome, Videl! Come in, Hercule." Chi-Chi stepped aside, pulling Goten from the doorway and squeezing him to her. "This is Goten."

"H-hi, Videl." Gohan rubbed his head with his teeth clenched before pulling Goten towards him. "This, this is my little brother."

Videl knelt in front of Goten and smiled. "How old are you, Goten?"

"I just turned eight." Goten cocked his head up at his brother. "This is Videl?"

"Here!" Hercule thrust the bouquet into Chi-Chi's chest. "Take these. They're for the house."

As Chi-Chi grasped the flowers with a scowl, Hercule locked his eyes on Gohan. Chi-Chi made a show of slamming the door closed noisily behind her guests. "I hope you're both hungry! Dinner's ready and the fight will be on soon enough."


"I thought your dad was dead."

Chi-Chi raised a brow at Videl's comment, while Gohan raised his brows in surprise and Goten kept his gaze intently fixed on the television stats playing across the screen, just like Hercule was keeping his gaze locked intently on Gohan.

"No," Gohan chuckled, shifting his weight on the couch cushion as Videl leaned closer to him, "he just goes away a lot 'cause he fights. My mom's not a widow; just divorced."

"Huh." Videl frowned as she crossed her arms and turned her gaze on the TV screen. "I could've sworn you told me your dad was dead."

Chi-Chi scowled at Videl from the kitchen, noticing the way the girl leaned into her son on the couch. They were sitting across from their television screen, which was showing a full arena with a center ring surrounded by bright lights and hundreds of spectators. The two teens were already very familiar, if not comfortable with one another. If Hercule wasn't sitting alone on the other couch, hostilely staring at the two of them, Chi-Chi was certain Videl would be even more comfortable with sitting beside and touching Gohan. Chi-Chi hated to admit it, but Videl's daringness almost reminded Chi-Chi of herself back when she was dating Goku.

"He's not dead, Videl." Chi-Chi said irritably as she joined the others in the living room, sitting with Goten on his sofa chair. "Goku's very much alive. And an amazing fighter."

Goten gasped sharply at the sound of a roaring crowd, scrambling over Chi-Chi's lap towards the TV. "See?"

Chi-Chi leaned forward, seeing exactly what caught Goten's attention on TV. Once the announcer had finished presenting the event and sponsors, the fighters were being introduced. Goku was the first of the two, and as the camera panned in on him, his smiling face showed on the TV. Waving his hand in the air and strutting towards the ring, Goku looked like he couldn't be happier. He was dressed in his orange and blue fighting shorts, something Chi-Chi had not witnessed him wearing in years. Waiting at his corner of the fighting ring was the famous Master Kai, the rotund man Chi-Chi had only seen pictures of, who stole Goku away from her all those years ago with his generous offer to train Goku.

"Doesn't he look raring to go?" The announcer shouted as Goku climbed over the ropes and leapt to Master Kai's side. "I know I always get excited for another one of Goku's fights. And this one is especially exciting, given Goku's famous opponent."

The crowd waving banners for their favorite fighters overhead came to an anticipatory hush while Goku and Master Kai stood onstage, looking ready and eager for the fight. Chi-Chi felt her heart begin racing as she waited to see Goku's new opponent come out. She hoped he wasn't anything too terrifying, like some of the monstrous men she'd seen Goku fight in the past. However, she also knew Goku would be disappointed if his opponent was anything but formidable.

"Wow, your dad really is a fighter, Gohan." Videl breathed. "It would be pretty amazing to be up there someday."

"He and my sensei, Mr. Piccolo, taught me everything they know." Gohan said. "I could teach you a few things if you're serious about fighting."

"Ha!" Mr. Satan scoffed, even as Videl looked intrigued. "I've already taught Videl everything she needs to know. And besides, these guys aren't so tough. I mean, look at this guy-"

"Shh!" Chi-Chi snapped, raising her hand to silence Hercule as the man to whom he was referring emerged from backstage with a chorus of cheers being shouted out from the audience on TV.

"...eerus," as the announcer continued speaking, he gestured to the tall, lanky fighter in blue and lavender fighting shorts with yellow trim, who was waving both fists victoriously in the air, "better known as The Destroyer!"

"That's Dad's opponent?" Goten asked dubiously.

Gohan frowned intently at the screen. "Appearances can be deceiving, Goten."

"Gohan's right," Videl said, "your dad shouldn't underestimate this guy."

With a quick glance towards Videl and Gohan, Chi-Chi caught her son giving the girl a look much like the looks she caught on rare occasions from Goku. Gohan was admiring her, and not just for her pretty appearance. The girl had strength about her, a quality Chi-Chi always knew Goku admired about her. This girl was not just some high school crush. She would be the real deal for Gohan. Now that she'd had the chance to get to know the girl and her obnoxious father over dinner, Chi-Chi really couldn't find any basis to complain about Videl more significant than her unfortunate close relation to a wrestler with an overblown ego.

"It's starting! It's starting!" As Goten started bouncing excitedly, Chi-Chi felt the vibrations of the moving couch springs.

She couldn't even tell Goten to settle down as she watched the tall, stern-looking fighter take his place in his corner, beside his own trainer, who was a gaunt, effeminate man with a stiff peak of white hair atop his head. When Goku and the other fighter approached the center of the ring with the referee, Chi-Chi found herself biting nervously on her freshly-painted fingernails.

After the announcer finished rambling off the fighter's stats and the rules, he shouted out, "First round!"

The room grew quiet as Goku and his opponent touched gloves and the bell rang. Chi-Chi was completely enrapt in the fight as both fighters began circling, feeling out each other's weaknesses and openings. The opponent, as well as his trainer, looked confident. Too confident. Chi-Chi had a bad feeling about this. Fortunately, the first round ended with only light kicks and punches exchanged.

Once the second round began, the seriousness of the fight was taken to another level, as the live audience stilled and came to a hush like everyone gathered in Chi-Chi's home. The first punch that made contact with Goku's face caused an uproar from the audience and had Chi-Chi grimacing as she automatically clutched onto Goten, feeling him shudder in her grasp. When Beerus followed that hit with a barrage of punches to Goku's kidneys and gut, Chi-Chi hissed through her teeth and rubbed Goten's back reassuringly.

Goku had attempted to block every punch, but by the time the bell rang to end the second round, Chi-Chi was certain that he had to be hurting, and concerned about his chances of winning this fight. She had never seen any fighter give Goku such a hard time. Goku was amazing, and his skills certainly hadn't diminished with all the training he still did. This fight just proved to Chi-Chi how Goku's opponent has earned the name Destroyer.

"Third round!"

Chi-Chi clasped her hands together, pressing her chin on top of them as she gnawed her bottom lip. "C'mon, Goku."

She felt Goten's hair brush against her arms as he turned, briefly smiling up at her before focusing his attention on the screen again. "Yeah, Dad! No one can beat you!"

Their cheers didn't do anything to improve Goku's performance, though. Just when Goku got a few hits in and it seemed he was increasing his chances of winning, Beerus shot back with more vicious hits. One particular punch snapped Goku's head to the side, spurting blood across the ring as he fell flat on his back.

Chi-Chi shot to her feet. "No!"

Beside her, Gohan bared his teeth at the screen, clenching his fists in his lap while Videl's hands flew to her face, shielding her eyes as she squealed at the gory sight. Goten ran right up to the TV with a yell, looking tempted to pound on it before he settled for growling and stomping his feet in frustration.

"It's a damn shame." Hercule crossed his arms and shook his head as the announcer started a count.

Chi-Chi held her breath as the count continued and Goku showed no sign of movement. He would be so disappointed if it ended like this. He had to get back up. He had to fight this guy! Finally, Chi-Chi gasped as she noticed Goku's foot twitching on the ground.

Hearing his mother's gasp, Goten turned from the TV screen with a questioning look. But before he could ask anything, the announcer let out a gleeful shout. "Woah! Wait a minute, Goku's not out of this yet!"

As she watched Beerus turn in shock to see Goku sitting up slowly, Chi-Chi felt a smile spread across her face.

"Amazing! Goku Son isn't done yet, folks! This is one amazing fight! No one has ever lasted against the Destroyer for more than two rounds before!"

Goku recovered to his feet and staggered to his corner, where Master Kai had a moist towel prepared to wipe the blood from his eyes. When Goku stood again, his fists were clenched by his sides and his fierce gaze was set on Beerus.

As the fighters came together for their third round with a ring of the bell, Chi-Chi jumped and threw her fist in the air. "Yes! Goku, kick his ass! Get out there! Show that Destroyer what you're made of!"

"Mom," Goten blinked at Chi-Chi, temporarily removing his gaze from the fighting spectacle still occurring on-screen, "are you okay?"

Chi-Chi clenched her teeth, feeling herself briefly flush as she realized that everyone in the room was staring at her in awe after that outburst. But her feelings of self-consciousness quickly disappeared when she caught sight of the flash of movements on the TV screen. Goku was landing a solid punch in Beerus' gut.

"Yes!" Chi-Chi swung her fist so fast that she nearly struck Hercule as he tried to make his way past, towards the sound of a ringing phone. Chi-Chi hadn't noticed the distinct, familiar ring before over the sounds of her own raucous cheering, but now that she listened, it really sounded like her phone.

As Chi-Chi hurriedly brushed past the couch where Gohan and Videl sat, in order to retrieve the ringing phone, the teens shrugged at one another and smiled. Chi-Chi tuned out the announcer's play-by-play while Goten continued cheering joyfully in the background, leaving Chi-Chi content that the fight was still going well as she picked up her phone, while Hercule dismissed his phone and returned to his seat.

Chi-Chi smiled as she turned to face the screen again. "Hello?"

"Are you watching this?"

"Of course I am." In her excitement, Chi-Chi hadn't bothered to check the identity of the caller, but now that she was on the phone with her, she wasn't going to hang up. "Is Krillin there?"

"At the arena?" Eighteen said. "He's heading there now. He figured Goku could use some moral support."

A lull followed in the conversation, the silence being easily dismissed when a cheer broke out in the audience on TV again, which Chi-Chi could hear echoed back to her from Eighteen's end of the call as well. It wasn't as awkward a silence as it could have been. This wasn't the first time Chi-Chi'd spoken to her deceptive friend since their falling out two weeks ago. This was just the first time there was any substance to their conversation beyond shouting and empty apologies.

"So, are you cheering Goku on, or secretly hoping he gets the piss beat out of him?"

Chi-Chi felt a traitorous smile break across her face. "At first, it was the latter, but now-"

Chi-Chi broke off with a gasp as she witnessed Goku taking a hard kick, one Beerus had artfully performed by swinging a solid roundhouse to the side of his head.

"Hey, don't worry." Eighteen consoled. "Whatever happens, Krillin and Vegeta will make sure Goku's taken care of."

As Chi-Chi watched Goku shake off the kick and regain his footing, just fast enough to evade Beerus' next punch and successfully counter with one of his own, she nodded into the phone.

"Hey, Chi-Chi."

"Yeah?"

"You know that I only set that shit up with my brother because I thought you could use it as much as he could."

Chi-Chi tried not to get frustrated with Eighteen for bringing up that horrible date while she was tensely watching Goku and Beerus exchanging punches and kicks on-screen, but it was really hard to ignore the irritating change in subject at a time like this.

"I mean," Eighteen chuckled wryly, "after seven years, your vibrator must have a name by now."

"Eighteen," Chi-Chi growled, "I have no time to talk about that right now. If you want me to forgive you for that horrible set-up and move on, I suggest you just drop this whole conversation."

"Deal. Oh!"

Chi-Chi's eyes widened at Eighteen's exclamation, because they were witnessing the same event on TV. Beerus had landed another punch, this time hitting Goku square in the face.

"Goku Son is down again!" The announcer exclaimed. "Is this finally going to be a knockout win for The Destroyer?"

"That," Hercule groaned and rubbed his hand over his face, "that looked like a bad hit."

As Chi-Chi stepped forward, she saw Gohan anxiously tap his foot. "C'mon, Dad."

Chi-Chi nearly dropped the phone as she became enrapt with the events unfolding on TV. She could see Goku down and bleeding while the referee was counting down again and Beerus was standing with a smug grin on his face. The trainers both stood in their respective corners, Beerus' looking aloof to the entire situation, while Master Kai looked like he was pitching a fit.

"…3...2..."

Gohan sighed heavily. "Oh, no."

"...1."

"Goku." Chi-Chi's breathing deepened as she looked at Goku's body, still sprawled across the ground while the referee grabbed Beerus' hand and raised it in the air.

"Beerus, The Destroyer wins!"

"Ugh." Eighteen scoffed loudly through the phone. "It looks like he won't be coming home anytime soon."

Chi-Chi watched as Master Kai, and surprisingly Beerus' trainer, both knelt by Goku's sides, attempting to revive him from his knockout. When his head was lifted by the trainers, his face looking bruised, swollen and bloodied, Chi-Chi knew exactly what Eighteen meant. There was definitely going to be some recovery time required after that fight. Another familiar face rushed into the ring as the announcer and opponent had already forgotten about Goku, being too busy celebrating Beerus' win with the cheering crowd. Chi-Chi felt somewhat relieved when she saw Vegeta rushing to Goku's side, though as he helped Master Kai drag him off the stage, it did look like Vegeta was yelling at Goku.

"Eighteen, I have to go."

Without waiting for a reply, Chi-Chi hung up the phone. She had another phone call to make. She had to know that he was all right.

"So..." Goten's disappointed tone stopped Chi-Chi cold as she turned from the living room, "Dad lost?"

"Yes, sweetheart. Sometimes-"

"This is the first fight I know of that Dad ever lost, Goten." Gohan said. "This guy Dad fought tonight was really amazing."

"I guess." Hercule muttered skeptically, while Videl was quick to scold her father for the remark.

Chi-Chi watched for a moment as discussion ensued between her sons and the Satans, but they didn't need her there at the moment. Goten was uplifted by Gohan's words, and Gohan seemed confident that everything was fine. She could sneak into the other room for a moment to make her call. She only needed a minute to make sure that he was all right.

Before she even made it behind her closed bedroom door, Chi-Chi already had speed-dialed Goku's number. After scrunching her face in disappointment when his recorded message answered, Chi-Chi hurriedly hung up and dialed again. This time, the phone was picked up after only one ring.

"What?"

"Vegeta?" Chi-Chi asked, noting the rude answer and irritable tone of the speaker.

"We're busy over here. He can't, nor does he want to talk to you right now."

"That's too bad. I need to talk to him. Put him on, Vegeta!"

"Are you deaf, Woma-"

When Vegeta abruptly stopped speaking, Chi-Chi could hear the commotion occurring in the background, but more importantly, she could hear Goku's amiable voice addressing Vegeta. Before she could argue further, it was his voice, not Vegeta's, on the line.

"Hey, Chi-Chi."

Goku's voice sounded understandably weak, but still good-natured. He didn't sound like he was taking his loss hard at all. Chi-Chi pressed her back against the door in her dark bedroom, silently laughing to herself in relief. Still, as much as he didn't let her hear it, she knew the loss had to hurt him. It was his first professional loss, after all.

"Goku, are you all right?"

"Nothin' a few days in the hospital won't fix."

Chi-Chi winced. She knew that had to hurt him as badly as the loss, though he was asking for it by going into fights like this. "I'm sorry."

"It's not," Goku grunted, probably from being shuffled around or tended to as she heard other voices and noises occurring around him, "all bad. I mean, that Beerus guy was even greater than I expected him to be."

"Yeah, he looked pretty devastating out there."

"I can see why people call him a god among fighters!"

"Are you sure you're okay?" Chi-Chi turned to crack her door open and peek out, suspicious that someone might come looking for her. "Nothing's broken? No stitches?"

"I dunno yet. Why? You wanna come here and take care of me?"

Goku's teasing tone made Chi-Chi smirk. "Do you really want me nursin' you?"

"Um," Goku audibly gulped, "no."

"You big baby."

"Besides, somethin' good came out of this."

"Somethin' good?" Chi-Chi quietly closed her door again, content for the time being to leave the others to their quiet conversation continuing without her in the living room.

"Vegeta was talkin' to Beerus' trainer before the match and convinced the guy to take on Vegeta with some training."

"Why is that good for you?"

"Because after the fight, Whis offered me a spot to train under him, too." Goku groaned in pain, but quickly continued the conversation. "He was real impressed with the fight, even if I didn't win. If he could train Beerus to fight like that, his training's gotta be great."

Chi-Chi frowned. "That's great, Goku."

She could get away with lying to him about her sentiments, but there was no fooling herself. Chi-Chi was saddened by the prospect of Goku getting involved with a new trainer, likely in a new, distant location. As she stared at the vague shadows throughout her dark and quiet bedroom, Chi-Chi thumped her head against the door behind her. She shouldn't be disappointed, she tried to tell herself. Nothing had changed. This was the same story it had always been with Goku.

"I, uh..." Goku's voice sounded surprisingly somber, "we're headin' off to the hospital now, Chi-Chi. Can I call you later?"

"Don't worry about it. I just had to know you weren't hurt too bad. You know," Chi-Chi shrugged, "for the boys."

"Yeah." Goku's tone returned to its usual brightness. "I'm lookin' forward to coming home and seeing them again. You, too."

"You're...lookin' forward to seeing me?"

"Yeah. Ouch!" Chi-Chi's eyes widened as she heard a loud slam and Goku whimpering over the phone. "Dammit, Vegeta. That hurt!"

Chi-Chi fumed as she pressed her lips together tightly. She didn't appreciate the interruption in their conversation, and knew that inconsiderate jerk was abusively handling her injured hu-

Gasping in realization, Chi-Chi slapped a hand over her mouth. She couldn't believe she just caught herself thinking of Goku as her husband. As more flurry of activity and arguing sounded from the other end of the phone, Chi-Chi hung up on the call.

She couldn't continue the conversation with Goku now. Her feelings towards him were so mixed up that she was worried the next words out of her mouth would make her sound irrational. She reminded herself that her reason for calling was to ensure Goku's recovery status, for the sake of the boys. She had accomplished what she needed to with that call, and now she could go to the living room and convey that information, as well as Goku's heartfelt message that he looked forward to seeing them again.

Once her company left for the evening and the boys went to bed, then she could begin trying to sort through the emotional mess in her head. However, Chi-Chi suspected that no amount of thinking this over would make things any easier. In spite of all logical reasoning telling her she shouldn't, she undeniably still had feelings for Goku. Feelings she couldn't put to rest, no matter how hard she tried. And the more she spent time around him, the worse her efforts failed her. And even worse, after witnessing a fight like that and hearing Goku's sincere confession, Chi-Chi knew she wouldn't be able to act indifferently the next time she saw him.

Chapter Text

"Mm-hm." Chi-Chi smiled, folding a pair of Gohan's khaki pants with the phone propped to her ear.

Goten was at the dining room table, playing a card game with his grandpa, who had dropped in after lunch time for an impromptu visit. Gohan was still at school, while Goten still had more school work to do, but Chi-Chi was willing to let him make it up later so he could take this chance to spend time alone with his grandpa.

"...so, I've been thinking..."

Laying a folded shirt on the pile of clothes, Chi-Chi smiled. "Yes, Bulma?"

"I'm going to have a little dinner at the house next week to celebrate our anniversary."

"Oh! That sounds nice!"

Goten's cheers of satisfaction in the background prompted Chi-Chi to look up from her couch piled with clean laundry, towards the dining room where her father was already stacking his cards and Goten was waving his winning hand in the air.

With a satisfied chuckle, Chi-Chi returned her attention to Bulma, recalling her friend's penchant for going big. "Now, when you say a 'little' dinner-"

"Oh, Chi-Chi. Do you even have to ask?"

Chi-Chi laughed. "Maybe you can have an ice sculpture ma-"

"But," Bulma added forcefully and hurriedly, "I'm inviting Goku so I hope that won't be a problem for y-"

"Mom!" Goten came towards the living room, tilting his head adorably at Chi-Chi.

She smiled as she pulled the phone from her ear. "What did I tell you about interrupting Mommy on the phone?"

Goten shot her a toothy grin. "Sorry, Mom. Sorry, Aunt Bulma!"

Chi-Chi raised her brows. "What is it, Sweetie?"

"Grandpa wants to take me to-"

"Chi-Chi."

Chi-Chi raised a finger. "Just a second, Goten."

"Chi-Chi, just think about it and let me know, okay? I've gotta get going anyways."

"Oh. Okay. Bye, Bulma." Chi-Chi removed the phone from her ear and smiled at Goten. "What does Grandpa want to do?"

Chi-Chi caught a glance of her father's boisterous smile from the dining room as Goten excitedly answered. "He wants to take me out for ice cream!"

Chi-Chi raised her brows as her father stepped forward, joining Goten in the living room. He was spoiling his grandson enough already by surprising him with a visit and deterring him from his schoolwork.

"Is that okay, Honey? We won't be long. I mean," Ox giggled and rubbed the back of his head, "I was going to take Goten out for some shopping, too. If that's not a problem."

Chi-Chi sighed and placed her hands on her hips. Goten really did need to finish his work, and the chances of him completing it later when dinner time would be approaching was unlikely. But between her son's adorable, wide-eyed gaze, and her father's equally adorable eagerness to spend time alone with his grandson, she couldn't deny them.

"Oh, all right." She groaned. "But Goten, you're going to make up your school work over the weekend."

"Yay!" Goten immediately hopped to the ground, hurrying to put on his sneakers he'd discarded by the couch earlier.

"And Dad, try to bring him back before Gohan gets home from school. He still has chores to do before dinner, and once Goku gets back, the boys aren't going to have as much time to catch up on their work like this."

As her father nodded, Goten sprang to his feet and gave Chi-Chi's purple skirt a tug. "Dad's already back, Mom."

"W-what?"

Ox waved a hand towards the door. "C'mon, Goten!"

Goten ran after his excited grandfather and passed him, swinging the front door wide open in his wake as he ran outside. "Yeah! Ice cream!"

Chi-Chi stumbled to the doorway after them. "H-how long has Goku been back?"

"A few days now." Ox surprisingly answered over his shoulder as he hastily tugged on his jacket. "You didn't know?"

Chi-Chi glared disbelievingly at her father. "How did you know he was back?"

"Uh, well, Master Roshi mentioned it." Ox turned in alarm as his car door loudly slammed from the driveway. "Oh! H-hold on, Goten!"

"What am I, the last to know?!" Chi-Chi clenched her fists as she followed her father racing out the door after Goten, leaving her to stew alone in her frustration at her doorstep.

Her father stepped into the driver's seat of his small blue car, waving. "Bye, Chi-Chi!"

"We'll bring you back something good, Mom!"

Goten's promise, shouted from the passenger side window, briefly brought a smile to Chi-Chi's face, in spite of her frustration.

Still, once that compact blue car rolled out of her driveway, Chi-Chi instantly lowered her brows with determination. She couldn't believe Goku never bothered to inform her that he'd returned home from his brutal fight. After he had her worried like she was, and knew she was worried about him, the least he could do was call her to say he made it back home alive.

"Dammit, Goku." In a split-second decision, Chi-Chi darted back into her house, reaching her kitchen counter to grab her car keys.

She still had a few items of laundry left unfolded, and no more than an hour before Gohan would arrive home from school, but she had to see for herself that Goku was really home. Then if he was there, she would give him a piece of her mind for being so inconsiderate as not to tell her.


The grass was overgrown, from nearly a month of being neglected. Weeds poked through the cracks in the driveway, where there was no car parked. Yet, she knew he was there. As she pulled her car into that vacant sun-drenched driveway, Chi-Chi was staring into an open, cluttered garage. And as she parked the car and made her way to the front door, Chi-Chi could just feel it. He was there.

Knocking on the door quietly, Chi-Chi placed her other hand on her hip and lowered her head. Now, as she pictured him opening that door and greeting her, she almost felt nervous about planning to yell at him for failing to call her. Their relationship in the past few years constituted of minimal contact, mostly centered around the boys. Why now, all of a sudden, did she expect him to report to her? Well, she did need to know for custody purposes, and besides, he already informed the boys and majority of his friends. Why not her?

When Chi-Chi realized she'd been staring at the bottom of a closed door for too long, she knocked harder. After only a few seconds of waiting for a response and musing to herself, Chi-Chi's fire towards this whole situation quickly reignited.

"Goku!" She pounded her fist against the door again. "Goku, I know you're in there!"

Pursing her lips tightly, Chi-Chi placed both hands on her hips and stared at that door. No sounds of footsteps approaching, no apologetic calls from inside, not even the clumsy noises that would signify him scrambling away from her and pretending he wasn't there. Yet, there was something. Pressing her ear against the door, Chi-Chi listened closer, narrowing her eyes when she noted the sound of running water.

Perturbed by the sound and lack of answer, Chi-Chi slowly reached a hand to try the knob. She knew Goku had a tendency to leave his front door unlocked, and she found that this time was no different when a gentle tug against the curved metal made the gears in the mechanism click as the door became ajar.

"Goku," Chi-Chi called, peering through the marginal gap, "if you don't answer me right now, I'm coming in!"

When there was no answer again, Chi-Chi shoved her shoulder through the door with a growl. She was surprised, though she quickly realized she shouldn't have been, by the mess in Goku's home. As Chi-Chi turned to close the door behind her, she noticed Goku's unpacked suitcase beside her, open and laid out on the floor.

There were items of clothing strewn across his couch in the living room, dirty dishes stacked in his kitchen sink, and the shades on the windows were all drawn, making the house uncharacteristically dark for the early afternoon.

When Chi-Chi made her way into his living room, she called through the quiet, "Go...ku?"

Furrowing her brows, Chi-Chi continued moving forward, wondering what had happened to that sound she heard before. She was certain she heard some water running earlier, but now, the house seemed so quiet. Of course, once she saw a half-eaten bowl of ramen noodles on the counter, she knew Goku was still there. There was no way he would've left that unfinished.

Just as she was crossing her arms and puzzling over Goku's whereabouts, the sound of a door opening from down the hall made Chi-Chi jump.

"Goku?" Chi-Chi leaned to the side to peer around a wall, letting out an alarmed squeal at the sight of the tall, naked figure stilling in Goku's hallway.

"Chi-Chi?"

Chi-Chi felt a rush of heat to her entire face as she clapped her hands over her eyes. However, clenching her eyes shut did nothing to wipe that very vivid image from her mind. That unmistakable wet head of messy black hair. His ripped shoulder blades. The white cotton towel secured from falling off his left shoulder by the strong fingers holding it. The drips that fell from his hair pooling into all the crevices of his muscles, down his shoulders and lower back, leading all the way down to that tight, toned ass and those long, lean legs. Gods, Chi-Chi didn't remember him looking that good.

"What are ya doin' here?"

"Goku, you're naked!"

"I know." Chi-Chi didn't dare to open her eyes, even when Goku let out an easygoing chuckle. "I'm allowed to be naked here. This is my house, y'know. But what are you doin' here?"

"Are you decent yet? I'm not talking to you until you put some clothes on."

"Yeah, okay." Goku laughed. "Give me a minute. You can open your eyes now."

Clenching her teeth, Chi-Chi slowly pulled her hands off her face. She was relieved to find when she opened her eyes that the hallway was empty, though shadows moved across the wall of a bedroom behind a half-open door straight ahead, as Goku had obviously moved into that room.

Chi-Chi crossed her arms and turned away, scowling towards the kitchen. "Why were you takin' a shower in the middle of the day, anyways?"

"I just finished training with Vegeta. I really needed a shower!"

Chi-Chi rolled her eyes while hearing rustling and shuffling in the bedroom. "I-I came here because...I heard that you were back."

Lowering her gaze towards the kitchen counter, Chi-Chi frowned at a distracting sight. There, spread one on top of the other, were a pair of glossy, featheredged magazines with naked women in promiscuous poses on the covers.

"So," Goku called through the walls, "is there somethin' you needed to tell me?"

Narrowing her eyes at the model licking her lips seductively on one of the covers, Chi-Chi pressed her lips together and shook her head. She couldn't believe Goku had magazines like that just lying in the open in his house. What if one of the boys saw that?

"...somethin'," Goku continued uneasily as a door creaked and padded footsteps moved towards the kitchen, "you wanted to ask? ...Chi-Chi?"

When Goku reappeared, tugging a white t-shirt over his abdomen and dressed in a pair of green slacks, Chi-Chi met his questioning gaze with a silent glare.

"Wha-"

With one pointed look at the magazines, Chi-Chi had Goku gaping speechlessly back at her. "What is this garbage doin' sprawled on your kitchen counter?"

"Oh! Those?" Goku rubbed the back of his head and laughed nervously. "Those are Master Roshi's!"

Chi-Chi scowled. "Are you tellin' me Master Roshi forgot his magazines here?"

Goku's eyes went wide as Chi-Chi's narrowed. She and Goku both knew that old pervert viewed his porn as treasured possessions. He'd never just leave magazines at somebody else's house.

"Oh, yeah!" Goku hurriedly reached to scoop the magazines off the counter. "Krillin must've left these here. I'll give 'em back when I see him."

As she watched Goku tuck the magazines out of view, beneath a stack of junk mail, Chi-Chi pursed her lips. "Just make sure the boys don't see them. Sometimes you worry me, Goku."

Once there were no longer any sights more unsettling than the overall disheveled state of Goku's house, Chi-Chi felt herself becoming at ease. She turned to address Goku, her eyes bulging as Goku turned to reach for his unfinished bowl of ramen, revealing to her his right side, where a horrible green-blue-purple bruise highlighted a lump on his temple.

"Goku!" She gasped as she reached to cradle his face in her hands. "Does it hurt?"

Goku's eyes widened in alarm as Chi-Chi squished his cheeks and closely inspected the side of his face. Then he grabbed her by the wrists, trying to gently pry her hands away. But Chi-Chi wasn't letting go that easily. She needed to get a closer look at that, especially when she noticed upon closer inspection that Goku also still had some scabbing above his brow from the fight. Chi-Chi's brows bowed sympathetically as she thought about how much he must've suffered during his time spent in the hospital.

"Ah! Chi-Chi," Goku winced and slowly succeeded in breaking Chi-Chi's palms' connection to his warm, smooth face, "it didn't hurt, not when you weren't touchin' it."

"Oh!" Chi-Chi retracted her hands, pulling Goku's gripping hands along with them into her chest. "Sorry. It just...looks really bad."

Goku smiled softly at Chi-Chi, before giving her wrists a gentle squeeze. "I've had worse."

Chi-Chi lowered her gaze, momentarily shying away from Goku's eyes as she twisted her wrists in the warm, secure embrace of his grasp. When she chanced blinking up at him again, the way he was looking at her knocked the air from her lungs. His eyes, usually so full of light, so free of worry, looked overwhelmingly pained.

She knew the 'worse' to which he was referring had nothing to do with the brutal physical injuries he'd suffered in his military and fighting careers. She had caused him his greatest pain. But he wasn't alone in that agony. Back then, Chi-Chi doubted anyone could understand how she felt. She never realized, until now, that he did. Still, as her eyes danced back and forth, closely studying his as he shifted closer, she couldn't understand why he was continuing to make plans for his future without considering his family. If he really felt the loss like she did, she couldn't understand why he wasn't trying harder to be with her.

His damp hair tickled her forehead and his breath ghosted over her lips before he spoke again. "I wasn't lyin' when I said I missed you."

Chi-Chi's eyes narrowed as she let out a stubborn huff. "If that was true, you would've called to let me know you were home."

A smirk slowly spread across Goku's lips. "You were waitin' to hear from me?"

Scoffing incredulously, Chi-Chi tore her wrists from Goku's grip, before averting her gaze to something, anything to detract her from Goku and his cocky, annoyingly attractive demeanor. She wouldn't admit that she was waiting to hear from him, but she couldn't deny that she was caught. All she could do was try to pretend she hadn't given herself away. Flustered, Chi-Chi turned away, setting her eyes on the disheveled items around Goku's living room.

"Th-this place is a mess!" Chi-Chi hastened around the room, picking up Goku's discarded, dirty laundry and gathering it into a large bundle in her arms. "Now, don't think just 'cause I came he-"

When a firm grasp around her arm took her by surprise, Chi-Chi stopped sharply and dropped the wad of clothing. She gasped, turning to see Goku standing so close to her and tilting his head with an imploring gaze. "Ch-"

"Yo, Goku!"

Chi-Chi and Goku exchanged a look of alarm and broke contact as Goku's front door slammed closed, before noisy footsteps approached them.

"Ready for the game yet? I've got two ice cold b-"

From the foyer, Krillin rounded the corner, carrying a bottle of beer in each raised hand. He blinked speechlessly when his eyes landed on Goku and Chi-Chi standing in the living room side by side. As Chi-Chi frowned at Goku, Goku gave her a quick shrug. Chi-Chi crossed her arms, feeling both uncomfortable and annoyed with Krillin's unexpected presence in that moment.

"Ch-Chi-Chi." Krillin slowly lowered both amber glass bottles to his sides. "Hi."

"Hi."

"Hey, Krillin!" With the attention span of a child, Goku bounced right out of his previous mood, beaming as he snatched a beer from Krillin's hand and popped it open. "Thanks!"

As Goku put the bottle to his lips, Krillin wrapped his other hand around his solitary beer, wringing both hands around the bottle neck as he rotated it in his grasp and darted his eyes between Goku and Chi-Chi. "Then that was your car in the driveway, huh? So, uh...Goku and I are...I have a game today. That's why I'm here."

After swallowing his first sip of beer, Goku sighed in satisfaction and smiled at Krillin. "Yeah, but you're early."

Krillin's eyes locked on Chi-Chi. "Yeah. Sorry. Didn't know you had company."

Chi-Chi didn't like the suspicious looks Krillin was giving her. He knew her almost as well as he knew Goku. He wouldn't believe she came here just to cause Goku problems. He knew Chi-Chi wasn't spiteful. Krillin couldn't honestly think her and Goku were having some sort of secret sexual escapades over here. And there was no way he thought Chi-Chi was giving Goku some false hope of reconciliation. She was the one that put an end to whatever was about to happen before Krillin arrived. She honestly didn't know what Krillin was thinking. Whatever it was, years of mothering had molded Chi-Chi into an expert misdirectionist, and Krillin was an easy target.

"Krillin," Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes and shot a finger towards the tucked-away scandalous magazines, "you forgot somethin' the last time you were here."

As Goku took another sip of his beer, Krillin raised his brows, following the line of Chi-Chi's finger to stare blankly at Goku's cluttered kitchen countertop.

Goku's eyes followed Krillin and Chi-Chi's gazes before he nearly spat his drink out. "Mm! Krillin!"

Chi-Chi watched Goku dart to the kitchen counter and slide the dirty magazines from beneath the pile of mail, before he thrust them into Krillin's chest.

As the magazines slapped against his red jersey, Krillin furrowed his brows and looked down at the cover image, before looking up at Goku as his cheeks flushed crimson. "Goku?"

Goku raised his brows insistently. "Take 'em home, Krillin."

After blinking at Goku, Krillin cast a sideways glance at Chi-Chi, then nodded at Goku. "Y-yeah. Sure."

Chi-Chi scowled at Krillin and placed her hands on her hips. "How could you leave somethin' like that around here, where an eight-year-old boy can find 'em?"

"Yeah," Krillin cast Goku a peevish glance, "how silly of me."

Goku laughed as he gave Krillin a gentle shove towards the door. "Better put 'em in your car before you forget again."

"Sure, but," Krillin glanced at Chi-Chi with a dubious frown, "are you almost read to leave, Goku? My game starts in an hour."

With the mention of time, Chi-Chi glanced at the clock on Goku's wall, gasping when she saw that it was already past quarter to three. "Gohan's going to come home from school soon! I've gotta run, too!"

"Hey, you're not going to tell Eighteen about," Krillin pointedly shook the magazines in his arm, "this, are you?"

Chi-Chi raised her chin. "As long as somethin' like that doesn't turn up again where Gohan or even Goten can set eyes on them. Honestly, they can't be seeing naked women at their ages!"

Goku exchanged a glance with Krillin, barely containing a snicker, but kept his mouth shut.

"Chi-Chi," Krillin shook his head, clutching the beer bottle in his hand and magazines against his chest, "teenage boys-"

"Oh! It really is late now, Chi-Chi!" Goku exclaimed loudly, pointing at the clock. "Gohan leaves school at three, right? You better get home!"

Chi-Chi followed Goku's gaze, gritting her teeth as she ran a hand through her bangs. It really was close to the time Gohan would get home. At the rate she was going, Gohan might even beat her home. She didn't want him to be alarmed when he found no one at the house. And what would her father and Goten think when they returned? She never told them she was leaving.

"Ohh," Chi-Chi grumbled as she stomped towards the door, barreling past Krillin, "you're right! I need to go. Just."

Chi-Chi stopped abruptly beside the open suitcase, spinning on her heels in the doorway to see Krillin gawking at her and Goku setting his beer on the kitchen counter behind him and tilting his head curiously.

As Goku scratched his head, Chi-Chi lowered her brows sternly at him. "Next time you leave town, Goku, I better be the first to know when you're back!"

Goku blinked, and then laughed as he braced his hands on his hips. "All right."

Peering at Krillin, who was once again furrowing his brows suspiciously at her, Chi-Chi quickly added. "For the boys. So I can plan my weekends." She cleared her throat and redirected her gaze to Goku. "You're takin' them this weekend, right?"

"Yeah."

"Good." Chi-Chi gave a firm nod, feeling somewhat satisfied by the softening of Krillin's brow as he continued to gape silently at her. "Well, then. I'll see you this weekend. Bye, Krillin."

"Bye, Chi-Chi!" Goku called jovially as Chi-Chi swung the front door open.

"Bye." Krillin's voice became muffled as Chi-Chi slammed the front door closed and hurried to her car.

She fumbled with the keys, hurrying to get the car started. She was always there to greet Gohan when he came home from school, and she wasn't going to start not being there for him now. It might sound silly to some people, but Chi-Chi treasured the moments of welcoming her son home every day. One day, before she knew it, he'd be out of the house and the 'welcome home' she loved to give so much would be nothing but a thing of the past. While she still had the opportunity, she would savor it every day. Besides, Goten was returning with her dad as well, and he'd be disappointed if Mommy let her ice cream melt before he gave it to her.


On the drive home, Chi-Chi enjoyed the wind whipping against her face from her open windows as she replayed the events from visiting Goku's house in her mind. The details of that awkward encounter with Krillin and the disastrous state of Goku's home were quickly forgotten as the fresh image of Goku's naked backside came to the forefront of her mind. Chi-Chi felt her cheeks burning during the few minutes she spent thinking about what he looked like standing in the hallway, but she had to catch her breath when she recalled the most poignant moment from that brief visit.

Subconsciously, Chi-Chi removed one hand from the wheel, caressing it around her opposing wrist as she recalled that moment, that look in his eyes. She would never forget the expression Goku wore or the softness of his voice as he confessed his pain in so few words, while wordlessly assuring Chi-Chi of his sincerity with the simplest of contact. With a trembling breath, Chi-Chi forced the reverie from her mind. She was pulling into her driveway now, and she had a little boy with new toys in his arms jumping excitedly and waiting at the front door to greet her. She might not have beaten those two home, but at least she'd still be able to give Gohan his welcome home. Deep down, she wished she could welcome Goku home as well, if only he would stay.

Chapter Text

A/N: I want to remind you all that this is rated mature for a reason.


Her house was dark, with only the flickering light of the TV screen and the ambient lighting of a single lamp in the living room illuminating her surroundings. Goten was already tucked away in bed, while Gohan was enclosed in his room. Whether he was asleep or not, Chi-Chi didn't know. But his light was definitely off. The darkness was calming, and as the television program continued transmitting music, voices and laughter, only partially holding Chi-Chi's attention, she yawned silently, then cast a smile at her father. He was facing the TV on the other couch, and if she hadn't looked closer, she would have thought he was still completely absorbed in the show. But as his half-lidded eyes darted to hers, she knew he was fading fast. She felt it was important to remind him of the details one more time before he would fall asleep.

"Dad, for tomorrow."

Ox snorted, surprised to hear Chi-Chi's voice break the silence. "Eh?"

"I really appreciate you staying here so the boys won't be alone while I'm at the dinner."

Ox snorted again, this time in a form of a chuckle. "Some dinner. Sounds more like an extravaganza Bulma's putting on for you all."

"Yeah." Chi-Chi laughed. "Most dinners don't consist of live entertainment and overnight accommodations, do they?"

"And an all-you-can-eat buffet!" Ox tossed his head back and rubbed his protuberating belly. "Ah, that must be the part Goku's looking forward to."

"It's probably the only reason he's going."

"Well, you should all have fun. The boys would've been fine on their own, but," Ox yawned, "I don't mind staying with them."

"Yes, well," Chi-Chi pushed aside a loose strand of hair as she untucked her sock-covered feet from beneath her and gently set them on the floor, "that's the thing. You see, Gohan's cell phone is still missing an-"

"He never found it?"

"No."

Chi-Chi scowled, recalling the fact that the last time she saw Gohan's cell was just before he left with Goku for their visit that past weekend. She knew it had to be at his father's house somewhere. Gohan was always responsible with his things and never lost anything at her house. But after Gohan contacted Goku, Goku claimed he couldn't find it anywhere.

Chi-Chi would have continued pestering him about it herself over the past few days, but after their last one-on-one encounter, she was trying to keep her distance from him. Goku was getting too close for her comfort, and as long as she didn't see any future between them, she figured the best course of action was to let whatever was changing between them just fizzle away by limiting their contact to a minimum.

Chi-Chi sighed. "And it makes me nervous, him driving Nimbus without a phone on him, so-"

A flash of light from the coffee table made Chi-Chi blink, her father following her gaze as her lit-up phone began vibrating and a pleasant, melodic ring followed. Reaching forward to answer it, Chi-Chi raised a finger sternly at her father. "Don't fall asleep yet."

"You take your call, Honey," Ox reclined comfortably across his sofa, leaning his head back and closing his eyes. "I'll be right here."

Chi-Chi grimaced, realizing this conversation was already over, but she had another conversation to begin now. And judging by the caller, she really didn't want to take this call. She stood from the couch, tiptoeing towards her bedroom so as not to disturb her father or her sleeping children. There was a good chance she might need to yell, or at least raise her voice when speaking to him.

"Yes, Goku?"

"I found it!"

Chi-Chi perked up and blinked as she entered her bedroom. "You found it?"

"Yep!"

Chi-Chi scowled suspiciously. "Where was it?"

"It's kinda funny, actually. I found it in the fridge. I wonder how it ended up there."

Chi-Chi scoffed and rolled her eyes. She was sorry she asked. "Does it still work?"

"Yeah. You want me to drop it off there tomorrow? Or is Gohan gonna come and get it?"

Chi-Chi placed a finger to her lip, thinking as she paced on the soft carpet. Waiting for Goku to drop off the phone would be too late. She wanted Gohan to have that first thing in the morning, like she had wanted him to have it on him for the past few days. She wasn't sure that he'd have time to pick it up and make it to school on time, though. And waiting until after school meant he would have to make at least two more drives without the security of the phone. And with her leaving to attend and hopefully enjoy an anniversary party, the added stress of worrying that her son wouldn't be safe while she was gone was not something she wanted to endure.

"Or…?"

"No, no." Chi-Chi waved her hand dismissively, before pressing it against her forehead as she cringed at her own idea. "No. I'll come and get it."

"…You'll come here? Tonight?"

Apparently, Chi-Chi's recent evasiveness hadn't even escaped Goku's notice.

Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes peevishly. "You'll be dressed, won't you?"

"Um, if boxers count."

"Put on more clothes, and I'll stop by just to pick up the phone."

"Yeah. Okay."

"I'll see you in fifteen minutes."

Chi-Chi hung up the phone, taking a deep, long breath as she turned towards her door. She didn't want to see Goku now. She didn't want to have anything to do with him aside from co-parenting, unless she was going to have everything to do with him. And as he already made clear to her, he had solid plans to begin training again. During his last pick-up of the kids, he had informed Chi-Chi that his training with Whis was scheduled to start in a month. Vegeta would be starting even before him, right after the anniversary dinner. It seemed this Whis guy was gung-ho about training them, because Beerus had gone on sabbatical or something after his latest win. It figured. As she slipped her shoes on and entered the living room, Chi-Chi realized that these fighters and trainers always seemed to have the worst timing for her.

Gathering her purse and her keys, Chi-Chi turned towards the television screen, smiling fondly when she spied her father snoring open-mouthed right where she left him. Gently, she leaned over him, pressing a kiss against his forehead. "Dad."

"Hm?"

"Dad, why don't you go to bed? I'm going to run out for a minute. You can lock up, though. I've got my keys."

"Hm?" Ox tilted his head up sharply, his sleepy eyes meeting Chi-Chi's gaze. "You sure?"

"Yes." Chi-Chi laughed as she took a few steps back. "You look exhausted."

Ox's bearded lip slowly lifted into a half-smile. "Mmkay. Drive safe. See you in the morning, Chi-Chi."

Chi-Chi smiled at him one last time before spinning around to face the entryway. She made her way to the front door, considerately locking it herself as she left. She knew her father would likely forget, and she didn't want to worry about her babies not being safe for even a minute if she could help it.


When she reached Goku's front door, Chi-Chi was scowling as she knocked. She didn't like being here alone as it made her recall that mid-day visit where she shared a pivotal moment with Goku, followed by awkward feelings and distance. She wanted to get that cell phone as fast as possible and go home.

Fortunately, he answered quickly this time. "Hi!"

As the door opened to reveal the smiling man in a button-up white cotton shirt, belted khakis and a small, black cell phone in his hand, Chi-Chi opened her palm and placed the other hand on her hip. "Hand it over."

"Hey, um...Chi-Chi?"

After Goku placed the long lost phone in her hand, Chi-Chi curled her fingers around the case tightly, narrowing her eyes at him. "What?"

Grimacing nervously, Goku ran a hand through his hair. "Do you ever...you know, hear anything about Gohan and his girlfriend?"

Chi-Chi raised a brow. "What about Gohan and Videl?"

"I don't know."

That look in his eyes and his fidgeting was a dead giveaway that he knew something he wasn't telling her. Chi-Chi just wanted to go home, but if there was something she should know about Gohan, she had to find out.

"Yeah. You know something. What is it, Goku?"

"What if I…" Goku scratched his head and averted his eyes towards the starry sky, "sorta heard somethin' on Gohan's voicemail I don't think I should've heard?"

Glaring, Chi-Chi braced her hands firmly on her hips. "You listened to Gohan's messages?"

Goku crossed his arms, a pout crossing his face. "I was curious about his phone. I didn't mean to hear the message."

"So what did this message from Videl say? Nothing inappropriate, I hope."

"It wasn't from Videl."

As Goku leaned his back against the doorway, Chi-Chi turned over Gohan's phone in her hand, her curiosity getting the better of her. Now she wished she'd heard this message from the mystery caller. Seeing that she didn't, she had to rely on Goku, because she most certainly wasn't going to do something as rude as snooping through her son's private messages.

"So who was it from?"

"Some guy." Goku shrugged. "He was all yellin' at Gohan, warnin' him to 'keep his hands off his daughter.'"

Chi-Chi's eyes bulged in realization, while she wrapped her arms around herself as a cold wind blew. "That message must be from Hercule."

"Hercule?" Goku stepped forward, reaching towards her as he watched Chi-Chi shiver.

"Mr. Satan." Chi-Chi inhaled sharply, taking a step back as the air stilled and she once again dropped her bare arms to her sides. It almost seemed like Goku wanted to try and help her get warm, but she didn't need his help.

Goku hesitated for only a second before reaching for her anyways, placing his hands on her tense shoulders and guiding her through his doorway. "You're cold. Why don't you come inside?"

"No." Chi-Chi forced herself to a stop belatedly, already across the threshold and into the warm foyer before she dug in her heels. "No, Goku. I don't want to talk."

"But I do."

"I don't care!" Chi-Chi spun for the door, reaching for the knob as it was swinging out of her grasp as Goku shut the door.

Grimacing, Goku pressed his back against the door to bar Chi-Chi's exit. "Chi-Chi!"

"Goku," Chi-Chi shook her head, exasperated already. "I just want to go home. Whatever that message is about with Gohan, I'm sure it's fine."

"But he said he was going to kick Gohan's ass!"

Chi-Chi lowered her chin, shooting Goku a disbelieving look. "Do you really think he could?"

"No."

Chi-Chi moved for the door, pushing Goku aside as he acquiesced, but once her fingertips grazed the brass knob, a surge of doubt made her hesitate. "You don't think…Gohan's been sleepin' with Videl…do you?"

"No!" Goku smiled and waved it off. "Of course not."

"But," Chi-Chi withdrew her hand from the cold metal, "you weren't worried about Mr. Satan hurting Gohan, so then why were you worried?"

When Chi-Chi turned, placing her hands on her hips, Goku gaped at her, speechless. Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes, watching the conflict and doubt crossing Goku's eyes.

"I-I don't know what to think! I just thought after that talk we had about Gohan and girls, maybe this was somethin' I had to tell you about. But maybe it wasn't." Goku scratched his chin, a dubious expression crossing his face. "But maybe I should have a talk with Gohan about this?"

"What?" A flash of anger as Chi-Chi recalled her earlier in-depth conversation with Goku about this. "You should've already talked to him about not having sex!"

"Yeah!" Goku's eyes bulged in alarm. "I did, really! Still, shouldn't I say somethin' to him about that message?"

Chi-Chi's gaze softened as she sighed, slowly stepping towards the kitchen. "I'm not sure you should, Goku. If you've already had that sex talk, what good is it gonna do?"

Goku's brows furrowed, an utter look of confusion crossing his face. "I don't know! Are you sayin' we just leave this alone then?"

Chi-Chi rubbed her forehead, considering Gohan and what this message could mean. He was old enough, she supposed, to be making his own choices and facing the consequences for his actions. She didn't want him throwing away his future with irresponsible decisions, but then again, Gohan was never one to be reckless.

"Gohan-" with a sigh, Chi-Chi pushed the bangs out of her eyes as she met Goku's clueless expression, "-he can handle his own affairs. I mean, we can trust him to do the responsible thing, right?"

"Right!" Goku stepped into the living room from the foyer, whirling on Chi-Chi as his short-lived smile fell back into a frown. "But it's okay for me to just not do anything?"

"Well..."

"Isn't a dad supposed to do somethin' when his son's bein' threatened for doin' something inappropriate with a girl?"

Chi-Chi let out a heavy sigh, lost for words herself on this issue as she slowly paced into the living room. For that matter, she wondered if a mother should be doing something about this. Usually, her approach would be to scream and threaten Mr. Satan for speaking to her son that way, but she could actually see the other parent's point if there really was something going on between Gohan and Videl. In that case, she'd be in the wrong, taking it out on Hercule. If Videl was her daughter and she suspected something was going on, she'd be doing a lot worse to Gohan than leaving harsh messages.

Goku walked between the blue couch and cluttered wooden coffee table, watching Chi-Chi carefully as his expression became increasingly frustrated. "I mean, I know we don't need to worry about Gohan. But...what am I supposed to be doin'?"

Chi-Chi smiled. Her desire to remain angry and aloof was long forgotten now that concern over their son was in play. She could never stay cold towards anyone who showed so much care for her babies, especially not Goku.

"We just have to do whatever we can to be the best parents. Sometimes, it's hard to tell what that is. We could leave it alone, or you could talk to Gohan. Or I could talk to Gohan."

Goku grunted in dismay, before throwing his arms up and collapsing into his couch. "That doesn't help at all. I'm so confused!"

Chi-Chi felt her sympathetic smile widen as she slowly took a seat on the couch beside Goku. Shifting into a comfortable position, Chi-Chi tilted her head at Goku. "Something has to help. Think."

"I dunno!" Goku grumbled, raising his gaze towards the ceiling and frowning deeply. "How did this happen so fast, Chi-Chi?"

"What?"

"It seemed like one day Gohan was just this little kid," Goku pressed his hand down, indicating how short Gohan used to be," and Goten was a little baby, and then the next time I saw them, they were suddenly all grown up."

Chi-Chi patted Goku's hand resting on the cushion between them. "It only seems that way because you went away for such long periods of time. If you'd spent more time with them..."

The sorrowful frown on Goku's face and his distant stare towards the living room window instantly caused Chi-Chi to feel a pang of guilt at her remark, causing her to trail off and dismiss what she was going to say. Goku didn't need a lecture from her, even if he was planning on going away again. By the look on his face, and this uncharacteristic deep-seated concern for dealing with Gohan, Chi-Chi could see that he was already well aware of his shortcomings as a father.

"Well," Chi-Chi ran her hand through the length of her ponytail, turning her face away as she frowned, "honestly, that doesn't matter. I'm not sure what to do, either."

"You're not? But you always know what to do."

Chi-Chi briefly met Goku's gaze, before lowering her eyes to their abutting hands on the couch cushion between them. "Not always. And besides, when you make decisions for the boys, Goku, I trust you'll do what's best for them."

"Really?"

Chi-Chi looked up, genuinely smiling when her eyes fell on Goku's. "Really."

Instead of smiling in return, Goku frowned somberly and returned his gaze to the window. Chi-Chi raised her brows, her smile fading as she absorbed Goku's unusually serious look. When she watched his Adam's apple bob, she knew he was still worried, or even worse, sad about something.

When he spoke again, his voice came out in a whisper so quiet that Chi-Chi nearly missed it. "Am I a bad father?"

Chi-Chi gasped. "What?"

Goku gave Chi-Chi a sidelong glance, before refocusing his intense gaze straight ahead. "I haven't always been there for Gohan or Goten, an-"

"No!" Chi-Chi cut him off with a glare, once again gliding her fingers over his hand to squeeze it as Goku looked at her in alarm. "You're a wonderful father! Our sons are amazing, and it's thanks to us that they turned out that way. Don't ever question that again."

"Thanks, Chi-Chi."

Goku's smile melted her as Chi-Chi briefly felt his crushing, returned grasp around her tensely gripping fingers. He removed his strong hand from her grip, clasping both his hands together between his legs as he turned forward, his brows narrowing in determination.

"I wanna do my best with them, you know?"

Chi-Chi smiled, leaning forward to place Gohan's cell on the coffee table as she watched Goku. He looked so intently fixed on his thoughts, so serious about wanting to treat their boys right, that Chi-Chi felt a tingle of joy, just knowing she could continue to rely on him in that regard. Whatever choices he made for his future, she knew he would never sacrifice his relationship with his children in the same way he had unwillingly sacrificed his marriage in the past.

Perhaps he had learned from his mistakes, or was maturing over the years, or perhaps he was so in-tune with his children that he couldn't possibly upset them. But Chi-Chi knew, beyond all doubt, that he would never willingly make a choice that would have an adverse effect on his sons. That was one of the many reasons she loved this man. And as Goku sat there, frowning and concentrating on his treatment of their teenage son, Chi-Chi watched fondly, feeling her smile grow.

When he turned to face her, his bright, surprised smile lighting his face when their eyes met just melted her. "Chi?"

Acting on a fleeting impulse, Chi-Chi closed the narrow gap between them, quickly, but gently pressing her lips into his. In the same moment that she enjoyed the sensation of his soft, warm lips against hers, Chi-Chi was hit with a wave of panic. She pulled away, inhaling sharply in realization as her eyes met Goku's stunned, wide-eyed gaze. She had no idea what she was doing. She hadn't asked Goku for his permission to kiss him. What if he didn't want her to?

Before Chi-Chi could panic any further, that same calloused hand she'd been holding onto earlier gently caressed the back of her neck, pulling her in to Goku's lips. When his lips began to fervently caress hers, Chi-Chi moaned into the kiss while Goku's fingers massaged the nape of her neck, until his moist tongue pressed between her parting lips.

Goku was kissing her. She had desired this for so long and fought it with all her might. Yet with one kiss, she remembered how she felt all the times he had kissed her years ago, had made her feel indescribable feelings, and yearned for her just as much as she did him. Now, in this moment, while enjoying the thrilling sensation on her moving lips again, her entire body quivering at the sensual contact, she couldn't for the life of her remember why she'd denied herself of this in the first place.

As their tongues intermingled, Chi-Chi closed her eyes, breathing deeply as she wrapped her arms around his broad shoulders. She could hear Goku humming in delight, feel his teeth nipping playfully at her bottom lip as his hands fell to her waist, and smell his earthy, masculine scent as his hands roamed up and down her back, up over the curves of her shoulders, and finally across her collarbone.

But then, she had a moment of clarity. She was supposed to be here just to retrieve a phone and go home. She wasn't even supposed to be in this house, having a heart-to-heart conversation with Goku, let alone this.

"Wait, wait, wait." She gasped, sliding her hands down from his neck to push against his chest after she broke the kiss. "We can't-"

"We can, Chi-Chi."

Hearing Goku's voice coming out in a whine of desperation before his warm, soft lips eagerly pressed against hers again, Chi-Chi inhaled sharply. But she couldn't complain about Goku's disobedience. To the contrary, his determination, his desire to have her, made this all the more irresistible. And as his delicious, smooth tongue delved into her mouth again, Chi-Chi's mind managed to forget the complications that could arise from this, the many reasons she had determined to not ever again get involved with Goku in this way. All she could think of was the intensity of the moment, her feelings for him being returned in a way she thought they'd never be expressed again.

Chi-Chi gasped when one of Goku's hands on her chest lowered, caressing her breast. She instantly melted into his touch as he kneaded it softly in his palm, causing her nipple to harden beneath the soft cotton of her dress. His tongue delved into her mouth again as he leaned forward eagerly, causing Chi-Chi to melt into the padding of couch cushions and rest her head on the raised arm of the couch.

When Goku's body was spread over hers and his hips rolled forward, pressing a hard bulge between her legs, Chi-Chi broke the kiss, huffing labored breaths against his cheek. She knew there were so many feelings involved here, and nothing could become of this that could fix their last seven years of estrangement. But she also knew what her body wanted. She wanted this so badly. She wanted him.

"Chi-Chi…"

Goku's breathy, longing utterance broke her. As Goku's lips grazed her neck and his hands continued unashamedly exploring her body, Chi-Chi arched her back, pressing her hips to meet another eager roll of his pelvis. Her breath quickened before she squeezed her thighs around his hips firmly, using all her strength to roll him onto his back within the confinement of the narrow sofa. She was now straddling the handsome man who was looking up from the blue couch at her in wide-eyed shock.

Their eyes only meeting for a moment, Chi-Chi was on him again, pressing her lips hard against his as her fingers went to work on the buttons of his shirt, hastily unfastening them one by one as she explored his warm, delicious mouth with her tongue.

"Mmm…" Goku sucked on Chi-Chi's lower lip, not at all deterred by Chi-Chi's aggressive actions as his hand snaked around her back, tugging on the zipper between her shoulder blades.

As the zip sounded loudly, breaking the mesmerizing sounds of panting and moaning filling the tiny house, Chi-Chi opened Goku's shirt, exposing his naked flesh to the ambient air while she felt a draft hitting her bare back. While Chi-Chi wiggled one shoulder free of the light material, Goku's hand moved up to peel the dress from her other shoulder.

Once the dress was puddled softly around her waist, Goku broke the kiss, taking a moment to take in the sight of Chi-Chi sitting half-naked above him. With her eyes locked on him, Chi-Chi unhooked and slid off her soft pink bra. Then, though feeling shy about Goku's eyes on her body, even after all those years of experience together, Chi-Chi slid the hair tie from her ponytail, letting her long, dark hair cascade loosely over her shoulders like she knew he liked to see it.

As Goku marveled with parted lips at her display, at her smooth breasts and the curves of her hips, likely taking in the changes that had occurred since their last time together, or maybe reminiscing how similar she still was, Chi-Chi saw a flash of sadness in his eyes.

But it was brief. So brief, that Chi-Chi hardly realized what was happening when Goku bunched up her dress and started tugging down her panties with an animalistic look glazing over in his eyes. She could feel how saturated she was down there, how hard he was as the bulge in his pants pressed against the thin material of her panties.

After seeing that look in his eyes and feeling the eagerness of his motions, Chi-Chi felt a matching surge of desperation to make this happen. It wasn't moving fast enough for her. Frantically reaching a hand to her hip, to the hem of the panties Goku was peeling off much too carefully, Chi-Chi gave the material a couple of vicious tugs, smiling when she heard a distinct tear and felt the freeing sensation of the material falling away from her hip.

Goku's eyes went wide as he sucked in a sharp breath and Chi-Chi rapidly unfastened the jingling belt around his waist, sliding it through his belt loops and tossing it to the floor before she made equally fast work of the button and zipper at his crotch.

"Ch-Chi-Chi! Mm!" Goku pressed his lips together as he made the sharp moan, while lifting his hips for Chi-Chi to tug his pants low enough for her to free him from his soft, white boxers.

She licked her lips at the sight as his hard, silky flesh with bulging veins and a pink, moistened tip emerged. Then she spread her legs, lowering to settle into position on top of him.

"Oh, I missed you, Chi-Chi."

Panic briefly set in again as Chi-Chi's eyes widened at those simple words. She couldn't help tensing at the reminder of the words Goku had said to her so recently. Now, the sound of them escaping his lips broke through Chi-Chi's haze of desire, returning to her the clarity of exactly why they shouldn't be doing this. But her reaction went unnoticed by Goku. When Chi-Chi let out an unintelligible, dubious stutter, Goku thrust his hips up, forcing his rigid length between Chi-Chi's waiting, moist folds.

Stretching, filling, caressing, and warmth –all of these sensations- were wrapped into a slow, solitary stroke of euphoric sensation.

Chi-Chi sucked in a sharp breath as she became fully seated, flush against Goku's pelvis as his rigid shaft filled her to the core. As his contented moan filled her ears, she felt an overwhelming desire to move, to tilt her hips and feel his shaft stroking against other areas of her tight cavern, though her mind still warred with her.

But her body didn't need to fight any war. Goku had the strength to propel them both through this. And as he pulled his hips back, unsheathing his length briefly before pressing up into her again, Chi-Chi threw her head back, "Ah!"

Her mind lost the battle as her body felt no regrets, no qualms about doing this. It was too late for holding back now, anyways. Chi-Chi dug her nails into the tight muscles of Goku's chest, holding on to his other shoulder as Goku clenched his teeth and hissed at the painful, but (judging by the look on his face) enjoyable sensation of her nails tearing through his smooth skin.

Leaning forward, Chi-Chi pressed her lips to Goku's again, sucking hard on his bottom lip as she rolled her hips up and down, feeling the sliding, grinding, moist sensation building a pleasing pressure between her legs.

Goku's arms seized her by the waist and pulled her flush against him, holding Chi-Chi's naked, dewy chest to his exposed muscles as he tilted his hips up, completely altering the sensation Chi-Chi felt as he thrust again. Chi-Chi released Goku's bottom lip from hers to let out a moan, just as one of Goku's hands slid down from her back, over the lumpy material of her gathered dress around her waist, to squeeze the exposed flesh of her rear end. Wrapping her hand around the back of his solid, taut neck, Chi-Chi forced Goku's head up just enough to lock lips with him again while he continued pressing into her, deeper than she thought was possible.

She hadn't felt these sensations in so long. She found it hard to believe that it had always been this intense. It was like every nerve in her body was on fire. Every stroke, every touch, every sound of bliss slipping from between his delicious lips brought her closer to feeling like she was about to explode.

Clenching her eyes shut, Chi-Chi wailed in rapture, the intense sensations wracking her body as she held onto Goku's neck and then slipped her hand past the loose collar of his shirt, over his chest, feeling his chiseled peaks and valleys of perfection. It didn't help that he was in a state of concentrated euphoria beneath her, with his eyes clenched shut, only opening them on occasion to meet her gaze with one of the softest looks she'd ever seen in his pure, beautiful dark eyes.

"Uhn…Chi…"

Letting out a trembling breath, Chi-Chi bit her bottom lip. She couldn't stand it any longer. His lustful, husky voice was intoxicating. Her core was burning, being hammered again and again with pleasure until she felt something seize, clenching tightly within her for only a second before a burst of exhilarating shockwaves were sent forth through her entire body.

She arched into him and tossed her head back, crying out, "Go…ku!"

As Goku continued pumping from beneath her, Chi-Chi rode out the aftershock of her climax, her staggered breath indicating to Goku that she felt her release. Before she had a chance to catch her breath and recover, Goku was squeezing her to his chest again, shifting their weight with a grunt as he sat up and pressed his hardened shaft even deeper into her core.

His heavy, shaky exhale in her ear caused Chi-Chi to shiver as his breath floated over the disheveled strands of hair clinging to her neck. She was so sensitive to the slightest touch now, yet it felt so good to still be tightly wrapped in his warm, secure arms. As Chi-Chi shifted forward, pressing her knees into the couch cushions and surprising Goku with the sharp movement of her pelvis, Goku inhaled abruptly and squeezed her tighter.

That was all the indication she needed. She wanted to make damn sure he felt as good as she did. Digging her knees deeper into the cushions, Chi-Chi lifted and lowered her hips slowly, building up speed as Goku's breathing became increasingly more staggered and frenzied. She crushed her breasts against his chest, bending her head down to kiss his neck when he tossed his head back and moaned. His body was so relaxed that she could feel all of his muscles softening as she ran her hand up and down his arm, while pistoning on top of him faster and faster.

She knew Goku was about to lose it, because she remembered. She remembered what she used to do to him, and what used to set him off. It was so wonderful to have this back, if only for a moment. Not worrying about what would happen after this was almost as great a gift as reliving these feelings and sensations, these emotions, again. As they continued moving together, joined as one, Chi-Chi parted her lips, feeling Goku's moist lips just barely grazing against hers.

"Goku, I-"

She couldn't say it. Instead, as she sought Goku's gaze, though his eyes weren't meeting hers, Chi-Chi forced her lips against his. Rocking on top of him, she kissed him harder as he squeezed his arm around her and ran his hand through the length of her hair along her back. When she pressed her lips against his again, Chi-Chi introduced her tongue into his mouth. As Goku's body tensed, Chi-Chi heard and felt the sound of Goku crying out sharply and the vibration in her lips, his orgasm sending a jolt to her core before he hugged her close, riding out his climax by rocking against her while he turned his head and panted into her ear.

Their deep breathing was all she could hear as they stilled for the next few minutes, while she felt the air from their intermingled breath bouncing off of each other, the touch of his warm skin, and the pounding of both their hearts as their chests remained crushed together. It was all lulling, soothing, and hypnotic as the euphoria from their intimacy remained strong. Chi-Chi rested her head on Goku's shoulder, closing her eyes as Goku's hand gently stroked her back. She was so tired. She was so at ease, and she was in his arms.

This was something for which she had longed for so many years, but she knew the moment couldn't last. She had to get home. She had to face the reality that this was never going to work. As she found herself falling forward with Goku, her eyes twitched with surprise.

"Mm, Chi-Chi," Goku kissed her cheek, stroking her hair as he eased back into the couch, "so...tired."

He mumbled something incoherent as he brought her down with him, remaining pressed together. Chi-Chi would remain there, half-naked as she was, entangled with him for just a little longer, because she knew that the moment she moved from that position, her fantasy would end.

She didn't mind laying there with Goku as she stretched her legs and slid to his side, not until she found an inescapable comfortable nook between his body and the back of the couch, while his soft snores began filling the air. The rise and fall of his chest beneath her palm, the rhythmic sound of his snores, and her physical and emotional exhaustion made for too overwhelming of a combination. As Chi-Chi's mind willed her to get up, get dressed, take the cell phone and go home, her body stubbornly decided otherwise. On that cozy couch in Goku's arms with her arm stretching across his chest, Chi-Chi began fading out of consciousness, her arm exhaustedly flopping and draping over Goku, leaving Chi-Chi securely wrapped around him.

Chapter Text

When her eyes fluttered opening, Chi-Chi's mind was in a complete fog. The vague silhouettes surrounding her did nothing to clarify her foggy state of mind as she tried to blink the haze out of her eyes. Something immediately felt unfamiliar - very unlike the space of her bedroom or her living room. Chi-Chi didn't puzzle over this for more than a second before the warmth against her chest moved and it all came back to her.

Another couple of slow, hard blinks finally gave her eyes clarity as she inclined her chin to look through the veil of darkness towards Goku's restful face. She didn't know whether to revel in the sensation of waking up to his warmth and the sight of that handsome man lying beside her on Goku's couch, or to panic at the fact that she was waking up on Goku's couch.

Panic won out, especially as Chi-Chi recalled that there were other people who would be waking up that morning - people who would notice her absence at her own house. She couldn't even begin to process the implications about what last night meant for her and Goku, and had even less time to discuss it with him. But as she focused on getting out of there, that unknown element weighed heavily on her mind. As her heart began beating frantically, Chi-Chi took a worrisome glance at Goku, finding relief in the fact that he was always a heavy sleeper. She could possibly climb over him without awakening him, and then she could leave here without any awkward, time-consuming conversation. She could also, hopefully, get home before her father or the boys would wake.

Fortunately, she wasn't sandwiched in there too tightly, though it took a lot of careful maneuvering to get off that couch without tripping over Goku and rousing him. Somehow, she managed to wiggle free, only digging one elbow into Goku's hip just before she settled her footing on the soft, plush carpet below his couch. She held her breath when he shifted, not letting the air out until he rolled to his side, flopped an arm over the edge, and settled into a deep pattern of breathing again.

Putting her hands to her cheeks, Chi-Chi took a deep, slow breath and let it out, trying to settle her pounding heart. Her eyes shifted to the clock on the wall, the time reflected by the minute and hour hand helping her heartrate calm. It was only six o'clock, which would explain the darkness. Even on weekdays, it was rare for anyone in her house to awaken before six-thirty, aside from her. If she moved fast enough, she still had time.

While slipping her shoes on which had fallen off right beside the couch, Chi-Chi panned her gaze elsewhere in the room, seeking out her lost bra and panties. The pale, indecipherably colored material peeking out from behind the other couch grabbed Chi-Chi's attention. When she made her way to it, she was relieved to identify the shape of it as her bra, relieved for the fact that she didn't have to match any socks in that room. Quickly, Chi-Chi putting her arms through it while searching for her panties.

She tried to remember what had happened to the tiny article of clothing. That was a mistake. As Chi-Chi zipped her dress over her bra, cringing at the noise it made as she watched Goku carefully for any signs of rousing, her face became overheated at the vivid memories. The feel of Goku's tongue in her mouth, the way they panted and writhed together, all the heated events of the night that led to this moment temporarily distracted her from her hurried task. As Chi-Chi bit her bottom lip, nearly tearing her teeth through the soft skin, she couldn't help staring at Goku, noting how good his half-exposed body still looked as he lied there, completely oblivious to everything that was going through her mind.

But then, when she eyed a shredded piece of fabric on top of a pile of papers on the coffee table, she felt the blood drain from her face as quickly as it had rushed to it. She had ripped her panties off. What the hell was she thinking? Now she'd have to drive home to her children and father without any panties. Clenching her fists and growling furiously to herself, Chi-Chi re-focused her attention on checking the room for anything else she needed to take with her. She had a feeling she was forgetting something, but she dismissed whatever it could be. She had to get home fast.

As Chi-Chi adjusted her skirt, pulling it down as low as it would possibly go, which unfortunately couldn't ever be low enough, she stormed out of the living room. She needed to get out of there. With the front door in sight, Chi-Chi rushed forward and banged her hip full-force against the kitchen counter, which shouldn't have been there. Chi-Chi clenched her eyes tightly at the overwhelmingly angering, throbbing pain as she felt an immediate bruise forming on her hip bone. She bit down hard on her hand to silence her cry, yet her silence did her no good when one of Goten's large plastic alien action figures, balanced carelessly on top of Goku's piled papers on his messy counter, toppled over from the vibration of her hard collision, landing on the floor with an ear-shattering crash. Cringing, Chi-Chi rubbed her hip vigorously and turned for the door.

"Chi-Chi?"

"Oh!" Chi-Chi felt her heart leap from her chest at the foreseen, yet unexpected sound of Goku's voice. "Goku!"

When she turned to face him, her face still contorted in pain and hand still busy rubbing her aching hip, she internally frowned at the thought of what Goku was going to say to her, of not knowing what she should say to him.

"Chi-Chi," Goku repeated, shifting into an upright position on the couch to peer over the back of it, "are you leavin'?"

Chi-Chi's heart wrenched at the tired, yet sad eyes looking back at her. "Y-yes, Goku. I have to get home. The boys'll be up any minute now."

"Oh." Goku's eyes bulged, his sleepy state gone in an instant. "Yeah. What…what are you gonna te-"

"Hopefully I don't have to tell them anything, if I can get home before they're up." Chi-Chi turned for the door, and then stopped abruptly to point a rigid finger and shoot Goku a stern glare. "You won't either. We're not speaking of this to anyone, Goku!"

"Um, but tonight's the-"

Chi-Chi was practically jumping out of her skin as her eyes shot to the clock behind him. "I have to go!"

"Chi-Chi!"

"I'm leavin', Goku!"

"Don't forget this!"

Chi-Chi flinched, her eyes bulging at the sight of something small and black flying towards her. She instinctively caught it in both hands, clutching tightly once she realized what it was. As Goku chuckled at her reaction, Chi-Chi took a deep breath, her heart fluttering in her chest as she clutched the phone in her grip. She couldn't believe she'd almost left without Gohan's cell phone. If she arrived home before everyone else without that in hand, she might as well have waited until after they all woke up and then confessed to her family exactly what she'd done the previous night.

"Th-thank you."

Their eyes met, only briefly before Chi-Chi shied away, wishing she could hide her mortification about the previous night's activities from her ex-husband. He looked so uncertain, yet hopeful, but there was no time for discussion now. She didn't even think she'd want to hear any comments about last night. She knew it was satisfying for both of them; there was no question about that. But now…

"You better hurry."

As Chi-Chi was seized with an overwhelming wave of urgency, she tensed nearly every muscle in her body, racing for Goku's door. She didn't stop for a second, ducking her head down once she reached the outdoors, appreciating the fact that Goku didn't have any neighbors who might witness her walk of shame. When she opened her car door and slid into her driver's seat, Chi-Chi wiggled uncomfortably into position, hating the fact that she felt so scandalously exposed with the lack of panties. When she started the car and pulled out of the driveway, she realized she hadn't even taken a second to consider how her hair or face looked or what she might smell like.

Chi-Chi was shaking her head, grinding her teeth the whole way as she drove, until she reached a traffic light and took a brief second to pull down her visor and check out her reflection. Traffic was still light at this early morning hour in the suburbs, so she was able to take the time she needed to comb her fingers though her loose, tousled hair and wipe a smudge of mascara from her eyelid. She even reached into her purse perched on her passenger's seat, retrieving the tiny bottle of perfume she kept for emergencies and giving herself a spray. For the most part, she looked about as kempt as she needed to be when the boys awoke in the morning, aside from the way she was dressed. If she could just have enough time to change her clothes, she could claim she'd overslept. But that precious time seemed more and more unlikely as she traveled further.

"Ugh!" Chi-Chi shouted aloud in the tiny, quiet confinement of her car, clenching both hands tightly around the steering wheel as she reached her block.

Only a few more streets and she'd be there. Every few seconds along the way, she'd check the clock on her dashboard, as if the time would jump ahead if she weren't keeping an eye on it. Now it was six-twenty and she was cutting it close. She really hoped Goten hadn't had one of his rare bouts of waking up extremely early and crawling into her bed. When she finally parked in her driveway, Chi-Chi didn't even have time to breathe in relief. She clutched her purse to her side, slid her car door shut and rushed to the door of the house, cringing at every inescapable noise of car engines, closing doors, and keys in the lock she had to make along the way.

With the stealthiest of footsteps she'd ever used, she crept through the front door. A lump formed in her throat at the thought of running into someone in the entryway, or the living room, kitchen, dining room, hall, or even inside her bedroom. But she held her breath and clutched the strap of her purse in a death grip, being careful to keep everything that might jingle or tap on her person as silent as possible.

Pressing the door closed behind her with a nearly silent click, Chi-Chi breathed a sigh of relief at the vacancy of the entryway and visible living room. It was silent in the house and she didn't see any lights on, which were very good signs.

With a few more deep breaths, Chi-Chi tensed and proceeded through the house. She was so close now, but none of her efforts would matter if one of her boys or her father would emerge from one of those closed bedroom doors, which could happen in a second. She had no idea what she would say to Gohan or her father if they found her creeping through the house in her wrinkled dress and disheveled hair. Goten, she could weave a story for, but even he might blab about what he saw to the others. Dammit, she just needed to get to her room and close the door.

When she reached the point just outside her doorway, within arm's reach of her knob, Chi-Chi felt her entire body tense. She just needed to open that door and duck inside, and she would be safe. No one had seen her yet, so with baited breath, she yanked the door open. When she slipped inside, Chi-Chi slammed her bedroom door closed behind her, no longer needing to be quiet. Chi-Chi paced her room as she allowed her heart rate to settle. As she passed the foot of her bed, she tossed her purse on the soft comforter and then braced both hands behind her hips. She continued pacing a moment longer, tossing her head up and breathing deeply.

Now, she needed to get dressed. She needed to face them and go through the motions of her morning routine without acting suspicious. She wondered if she could do that. The first thing she had to do was get her mind settled. Chi-Chi stilled and closed her eyes, preparing to recite a calming mantra to herself in silence.

Only seconds after she shut her eyes, the creak of a door in the hallway alarmed Chi-Chi. Someone was up and about, and only minutes after she made it to her room. Chi-Chi grimaced. She had cut it so close. She still couldn't believe she could do something so irresponsible. If her sons ever found out about where she was all night, she would hate herself for getting their hopes up just to break their hearts again, but she would never want to get back with Goku solely for their benefit.

As shuffles and closing doors sounded in the hall, Chi-Chi realized the morning was beginning without her. She needed to get her boys ready for school. First, she needed to get herself dressed. Spinning in a panic, Chi-Chi nearly forgot how to dress herself. She shook her head, forcing herself to concentrate as she made her way to her walk-in closet. There, she chose a long, purple maxi dress that she could easily change into, and after that, she made her way to her dresser and selected a new bra and panties. Smiling in relief at the sight of them, Chi-Chi held her pink panties up to her face, then glanced past them, at her resolute reflection in her vanity mirror. If anyone could carry this morning off, she could.


"Mom, can I have some bacon?"

Chi-Chi hustled around her kitchen, less talkative than usual, but just as productive as her children sat at the dining room table eating, while her father was just walking sleepily out of his guest room. Casting a quick smile to her bleary-eyed father, Chi-Chi wiped up a small milk spill on the counter and shook her head.

"Goten," Gohan said before Chi-Chi could answer, "you know we're out of bacon."

"Oh, yeah." Goten frowned over his plate of eggs and toast and then cradled his head in his hand. "I forgot."

Chi-Chi grabbed the two fixed plates still sitting on her kitchen counter, before making her way around the countertop and delivering them to the empty seats at her dining room table and taking a seat herself. "Come on, Dad. I made you some eggs."

"Scrambled with cheese, I hope."

"No." Chi-Chi scowled at her plate as her father lazily shuffled to the seat beside her. "You know that's bad for your cholesterol. You need to watch what you're eating."

"Aw, Chi-Chi."

"Mom's right, Grandpa." Goten said. "Besides, Mom's scrambled eggs are good without the cheese."

Chi-Chi poked her fork in her food before lifting her gaze from her plate to smile at her grinning, cheerful child. It felt almost like she hadn't seen him in ages, though she'd only been gone for a night. And when she shifted her gaze to Gohan and indulged in her first bite of egg, Chi-Chi couldn't help letting out a contented sigh. Her children were a sight for sore eyes.

A few minutes of silent eating ensued, wherein doubt was able to creep up on Chi-Chi again. She worried someone might mention waking up and noticing her absence during the night. She worried Gohan could see through her charade as he was always so observant. She worried she was not being a very good mother by thinking of herself so much last night. But as everyone finished eating, Gohan leaned back from his polished plate, sighing in content and therefore indicating to Chi-Chi that he had not at all gathered any suspicions about her.

Rubbing a hand over his belly, Gohan cast Chi-Chi a dazzling smile. "Ah! That was great, Mom."

Chi-Chi blinked, temporarily dazed by Gohan's smile. He looked so much like his father, and that smile, after last night - it nearly took her breath away.

"…Mom?"

"…Mom?"

"Hm?" Chi-Chi fluttered her eyes, shocked when she turned her head to notice both of her sons as well as her father were staring at her.

"You okay, honey?" Ox patted her shoulder. "You look a little out of it."

"Yeah," Chi-Chi shook her head, "yeah. I just didn't sleep too well last night. That's all."

"Hm. Well," Gohan stood from the table, taking his plate with him, "I hope you can still enjoy spending time with Eighteen this morning. Try to get some rest before the party, though."

Chi-Chi blinked. "Eighteen?"

Her eyes widened when she recalled her plans with Eighteen to get gussied-up for the party. She'd forgotten all about it! Grimacing, Chi-Chi glanced at the clock. It was only seven now, but she would have to leave by eight to meet Eighteen for their eight-thirty or nine o'clock appointment at the spa. She'd have to check on that time.

"Mom, after I get dressed," Goten disrupted her thoughts, sliding out of his chair, "do I really have to do schoolwork with Grandpa?"

Chi-Chi's pensively darting eyes immediately stilled to narrow at her son. "You are not slackin' just because I won't be home, Goten."

Gohan laughed as he passed the table. "Nice try, though, Squirt."

"Don't worry, Goten." Ox said to Goten's pouting face. "We'll try to make your lessons fun. Grandpa's always been good at that. Right, Chi-Chi?"

"Hm? Yeah." Chi-Chi stood to gather the remaining dirty dishes from the table, brushing past her seated burly father before nearly bumping into Goten on her way to the sink. "Goten, get dressed so Grandpa can start your lessons soon. And if Gohan needs the bathroom, let him get in there. We don't want your brother to be late for school."

Ox turned in his chair and draped an arm over the back of it. "Who's all going to this anniversary dinner tonight, Chi-Chi?"

"You know, all of Bulma and Vegeta's friends, Dad."

Chi-Chi winced at her own, distracted thoughts, dropping her dishes into the sink and running the water. She wasn't even capable of thinking of the party yet, though she knew that would be a problem. Goku would be there and she'd hardly talked to him before rushing out. But for now, she had to prepare herself to face Eighteen one-on-one. As she watched the basin fill, the water line slowly rising against the metal sink, Chi-Chi let out a sigh. She was doing just fine with facing her family, but facing Eighteen would be a different matter.

Eighteen would question her, would scrutinize her, and with a manicurist working on her nails or with her feet soaking in preparation for a pedicure, there would be no escape, especially once the gossipy technicians caught wind of Eighteen's pointed questions that were bound to come.

"So the lessons are on the coffee table?"

Pressing down the metal faucet to cut off the flow of water at her sink, Chi-Chi looked past the kitchen counter at her father. He was staring back at her with a frown, rubbing the back of his neck self-consciously. Chi-Chi smiled. She was just glad she could rely on her father, who would be there to support her, whatever she did.

"Yes," Chi-Chi rubbed her hands quickly over the kitchen hand towel and made her way around the counter, "the first stack is for today, and the staggered stack is for tomorrow. Gohan should be leavin' any minute now, then home after three. He'll have his cell phone on him if you need to call for any reason. And-"

Ox's bushy brows knit tightly together. "He has his cell phone?"

"-so will I. You know you can call me anytime. If there are any emergencies-"

"Chi-Chi!" Ox laughed and waved his hand. "There won't be any emergencies! You go have fun. Don't worry about us! I'm sure Gohan can help with anything I need."

With a settling breath, Chi-Chi unwound the tension that had been building while worrying how her father and children would fare while she was gone. It was all too much tension for one morning -worrying about keeping a secret, being responsible for what would happen to her boys while she was gone, worrying about a party where she would see the man she'd just slept with and ran out of his house, and knowing she would have to face her friend soon at the spa and feel like she'd be under a magnifying glass. But when she raised her gaze to meet her father's eyes, the reassuring smile on his face was remarkably calming.

Gohan emerged from his room with his backpack slung over one shoulder. When he reached the kitchen, Chi-Chi approached him, knowing she needed to give him a proper goodbye to last her a couple of days. She wanted to make sure he would be safe while she was gone, especially since she knew how long it would be until she'd see him again and he was just about to get behind the driver's seat of Nimbus. When Chi-Chi wrapped her arms tightly around him, Gohan squeezed back briefly.

Chi-Chi smiled at Gohan as she pulled away. "Time to go already?"

"Yeah. See you in a couple days, Mom."

"Did you see your cell phone on the counter?"

"Yeah. I've got it." Gohan beamed as he turned and walked backwards towards the sunlit front door. "Where'd you find it?"

Chi-Chi cast a sidelong glance at her father, who was watching them from the dining room table. She never told him where she was going when she stepped out last night. Maybe it was better if he just didn't know. Then she'd have less chance of any embarrassing discoveries happening later.

"Umm, it's funny, really." Chi-Chi flushed and cupped a palm around her cheek. "It was just...buried in the bottom of my purse, on silent."

"Really?" Gohan laughed.

"And you were ready to get angry at Goku for losing it." Ox chided.

"Yeah," Gohan laughed, "I bet Dad'll be glad to know he's off the hook."

As Gohan backed towards the door, Chi-Chi literally bit her tongue. She winced in pain, turning her face away to hide her irritation. She couldn't believe she had to cover for Goku like this, and she'd inadvertently put his guilt in her hands.

When Chi-Chi turned her gaze to the door to see her son waving a hand and smiling at her from the bright, open doorway, her brief wave of anger fizzled away.

"Gotta go now! Bye, Mom!"

"Bye, Gohan. Drive safe!"

"You'd better get moving too, huh Chi-Chi?"

With a sharp inhale, Chi-Chi turned to her father, before fervently nodding. She did still have time to dawdle and make it to her appointment on time, but the less time she spent this morning in the company of others, the better. If she could take a drive before her appointment, maybe she could settle her mind. A short drive through the tree-lined paths of their local, aesthetically pleasing park might prepare her mentally for dealing with Eighteen. Chi-Chi nodded to herself as she turned to collect her things. She would take that drive, then head to the salon, and in the meantime, focus on a list of questions she could shoot at Eighteen to keep the focus of conversation away from her. If she could get through this engagement with Eighteen, she could make it through the anniversary party, no problem.


It was a shade of red she usually wouldn't wear. It was deep, metallic, sexy and mature in a way that Chi-Chi usually wouldn't feel was appropriate for her. But given last night's activities, the color actually felt fitting. She hated knowing what a harlot she'd acted like last night, especially when every time she thought back to being on that couch with Goku, she couldn't help having more indecent thoughts about him. Chi-Chi gnawed her bottom lip as she watched the lacquer spread from the black bristles of the narrow brush to fill her first neutral-colored nail bed with the incriminating shade.

"What do ya think? Like it?"

Chi-Chi's gaze lifted to the bubbly, young, perfectly made-up technician chewing gum and beaming at her. The technician cocked her head, running her free hand through her long, blue silky hair as she waited curiously for an answer.

Glancing sidelong at Eighteen, who was seated on the stool beside her with her own technician working on her nails, Chi-Chi raised a brow. "What do you think, Eighteen?"

"It's pretty, right?" Chi-Chi's technician smacked her gum obnoxiously as Eighteen regarded the color with a stoic gaze.

"Yeah. It's nice."

Chi-Chi sighed. "Okay, but it's a little formal, don't you think?"

"Chi-Chi," Eighteen scoffed, "it's an anniversary dinner with an over-the-top celebration. I don't know about you, but I'm going to dress to the nines and live it up at this thing."

Eighteen's comment conjured images in Chi-Chi's mind of a banquet of fine dining, elegant ice sculptures, flashing light displays, live music, people in fancy dress, and lots of dancing and entertainment. It was a glamorous prospect, and one that would usually excite her. But there were so many other things that the night could bring, given the guest list. Still, as far as Eighteen knew, there was no reason for Chi-Chi to object to the party.

"Yeah. I guess you're right."

The old, stout woman painting Eighteen's nails narrowed her eyes at Chi-Chi. "If you don't want to go, I'll take your place. Sounds like one hell of party like I've never been invited to."

As the old woman rubbed her wrinkled hands together, Eighteen peevishly narrowed her eyes at her unfinished nails perched on the white table. On only one hand her fingernails were painted sparkling silver, sans her pinky, and Chi-Chi and Eighteen still had their pedicure and massage left after this. At least Chi-Chi knew she could look forward to catching a break from conversation during the much-needed massage.

"Sorry, Baba." Eighteen smirked at the technician. "I don't think Bulma would appreciate some random old woman showing up at her party."

Baba scoffed, before returning to her polishing job with a scowl. "Snobby rich people."

"I'm sure this Bulma wouldn't mind if I showed up." The other technician chirped as she continued painting Chi-Chi's nails. "People like me are always welcome at parties."

Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes at the top of the technician's blue head. "Not this party."

"Hmph." The technician raised her gaze, lifting the nail brush in the air to meet Chi-Chi's gaze with her pretty blue eyes. "That's not a very nice thing to say."

"Yeah." Eighteen said. "What's with you, Chi-Chi?"

Chi-Chi opened her mouth, prepared to defensively argue with Eighteen. Her friend couldn't possibly think she was in the wrong for putting that girl in her place. Eighteen was much harsher with twenty-somethings who acted so entitled as this one. Chi-Chi was actually surprised she hadn't said anything yet. If Eighteen was noting any unusual attitude from Chi-Chi, maybe somehow she was picking up on what Chi-Chi was trying to hide. And Chi-Chi would not let last night's events come out. But as she turned a glare on her friend, she was surprised to see a playful smirk on Eighteen's face.

"Let's call Bulma right now. We'll ask her if we can invite," Eighteen narrowed her eyes at the younger technician, "what's your name, again?"

"Maron."

"Maron." Eighteen gave a curt nod before redirecting her gaze to Chi-Chi. "Go ahead, Chi-Chi. Call her."

"Ooh!" The old woman smiled, revealing her missing teeth and cracked lips that made Chi-Chi wonder what on Earth she was doing working in a beauty spa. "If you're calling up the host, see if you can bring me, too! I tell fortunes as a side-job, if she needs some entertainment."

Chi-Chi furrowed her brows at the older technician, surprised to hear such a claim. She highly doubted that old woman could see the future or commune with the dead, yet when Baba met her gaze, the old woman sent Chi-Chi a slow, subtle smirk that made Chi-Chi's blood run cold. It was like Baba knew something about Chi-Chi she shouldn't. Chi-Chi could see it in the old woman's deep-set, crow's feet-lined eyes. Or maybe Chi-Chi was just being paranoid now.

"I was being facetious." Eighteen lowered her chin at Baba and dropped the smile. "We're not calling Bulma."

"Aw!" Maron pouted as she replaced the nail brush back into its bottle. "That stinks!"

Chi-Chi pressed her lips together tightly as she watched in amusement the disappointed frowns crossing both technician's faces. Eighteen could be so mean sometimes, but Chi-Chi did appreciate the fact that she wasn't on the receiving end of her callousness this time around. She wanted to make sure to keep it that way. She had to keep her questions coming.

"So, Eighteen, how are you going to do your hair for the dinner?"

Observing her finished silver, sparkling nails, Eighteen frowned. "I don't know. I was thinking about wrapping a red ribbon around it, to match my dress."

"That would be pretty."

"But then I remembered ribbons aren't my style. Too quaint." Eighteen wrinkled her nose. "So I think I'll go with the rhinestone clip I bought the other day. It'll match my nails now."

"While your nails are drying, Ladies," Baba croaked, sliding off her stool, "we'll leave you for a few minutes, and be back to start your pedicures."

"Would you like a glass of water while you wait?" Maron scrunched her face with a patronizing smile. "Some coffee?"

"Water, please."

Eighteen raised a brow. "Do you have champagne?"

Maron nodded and then leaned into Chi-Chi, nearly pressing her breasts in her face. "Would you like a lemon or lime with your water?"

"Um," Chi-Chi backed away from the invasion of her personal space, "l-lemon sounds fine."

"Okay! Be right back with your drinks."

"Ugh," Eighteen muttered as soon as Maron turned away, "that woman irritates me."

Chi-Chi smirked and flapped her wet, crimson nails in the air. "Don't most people irritate you, Eighteen?"

"But that woman especially. Don't tell me you don't find her annoying."

Chi-Chi shrugged. She always liked to give people the benefit of the doubt, though she could see where Eighteen was coming from. But truthfully, she preferred Maron to the technician Eighteen was stuck with. That woman gave Chi-Chi the creeps.

"So." Eighteen's loaded word hit Chi-Chi like a ton of bricks when she turned to see the smug smile on her friend's face. "This party, dinner, whatever you want to call it, will be the perfect opportunity for you to get together with someone."

"What?"

"Oh, Chi-Chi, come on! Don't tell me you've given up just because the date with my brother was a flop."

"A 'flop' is putting it lightly."

"I'm just saying, there will be a lot of men at this party."

Chi-Chi shook her head. "Eighteen, I can't. It just won't feel right. You don't understand."

Damn, Eighteen did not understand, not at all. Here Chi-Chi thought Eighteen would be a problem today because her friend would make her spill her guts about last night, but instead her friend remained clueless and was complicating things further with suggestions of getting together with someone else, while Goku would be under the same roof. Eighteen was relentless!

"Chi-Chi."

"Eighteen," Chi-Chi glared firmly, "I want us to both have fun tonight. So you worry about yourself at the party, and I'll worry about my business."

Eighteen gave Chi-Chi a withering look, telling Chi-Chi this was far from over, though she was willing to let it go for now.

"Here are your drinks, Ladies." After handing the drinks over, Maron leaned forward, grasping Chi-Chi's free hand lightly and inspecting her nails. "It looks like it won't be much longer. We'll get your foot soaks ready."

As Maron walked away, Chi-Chi sipped her ice cold water, enjoying the purity of it and the hint of lemon coming from the yellow wedge propped at the rim of the slender glass. It always seemed salon drinks were nicer than the drinks at home, even the water somehow.

"Ah." Eighteen licked her lips, savoring the bubbling champagne from her dainty flute. "This is great, isn't it, Chi-Chi?"

"Yeah." Chi-Chi forced a smile. "The spa's a rare treat. And Bulma's events are always exciting."

"I can't imagine how much she spent on all of it. That girl is insanely rich."

"No thanks to Vegeta."

Eighteen rolled her eyes. "What does she need Vegeta for when she's an heiress and makes the big bucks on her own?"

Chi-Chi turned a wistful gaze at the alluring and colorful abstract painting hung above the selection of nail polish colors displayed neatly along the wall. As her eyes followed the curved lines and flow of color on that huge canvas, she let out a long sigh. She knew what Bulma needed Vegeta for, and it had nothing to do with financial security. It used to be the same reason Chi-Chi needed Goku. Maybe that was why she felt so lost now. Maybe she never stopped needing him.

"Chi-Chi."

Chi-Chi inhaled sharply, turning her eyes to the attentive gaze of her friend. "What?"

Eighteen's eyes narrowed, causing Chi-Chi to feel a surge of alarm. "There is something going on with you today."

"No! No, there's not."

"Are you anxious about seeing Goku at the dinner?"

Admitting that small truth could get Chi-Chi off the hook. It wouldn't be the first time Chi-Chi had been openly anxious about spending time around her ex at social events. This, to Eighteen, would just seem par for the course, as long as Eighteen never realized why Chi-Chi was especially anxious this time around.

"Oh." Chi-Chi formed a small 'o' with her mouth, raising her gaze to the ceiling. "That's it. I guess I am."

"Don't be." Eighteen scoffed. "Bulma won't seat him anywhere near you. You don't have to talk to him if you don't want to. And from what Krillin tells me, he's not bringing a date, if that's what you're worried about."

"Ladies, if you'll come this way."

Chi-Chi turned from Eighteen to the beauty technician. Maron was standing with a welcoming gesture aimed towards the hall leading to the other end of the spa. Raising her chin and smiling, Maron let out a giddy giggle when Eighteen and Chi-Chi exchanged a glance and then stood to follow with their drinks in hand.

"Let's get started on those pedicures!" Maron said, swishing her hips in her short, fitted skirt as she led the way. "No one wants to see old lady toes."

Chi-Chi nearly shattered the glass in her grip. As Eighteen let out a low growl, looking down at her exposed feet trekking the tiled floor, Chi-Chi followed her gaze. Their open-toed sandals had to reveal the same pairs of feet Maron was seeing. But Chi-Chi did not have old lady toes. Her skin might've been more elastic and brighter when she was younger, but she still had dainty, clean, and wrinkle-free toes. Deciding she still very much approved of her feet, Chi-Chi raised her gaze to glare daggers at the beautician's backside.

"I'm about ready," Chi-Chi said through clenched teeth, "to yank that indecent skirt over her head."

"I won't stop you." Eighteen muttered as she crossed her arms and dangled the champagne flute from her twitching fingers. "That little bimbo deserves it. She hit on Krillin when he dropped me off here, did you know that?"

"Hmph."

"Don't worry," Maron called over her shoulder, oblivious to their quiet conversation, "by the time Old lady Baba and I are done with you, you two will look young again."

Chi-Chi shook her head before meeting her friend's angered gaze and turning her scowl to a smirk. Even with secrets kept between them and the irritating relentlessness of Eighteen's agenda, Chi-Chi could always manage to bond with her blonde friend over their common distaste for anything that was classless or brainless, both of which Maron was the exact embodiment.

Eighteen didn't seem to suspect what had happened last night, so Chi-Chi felt more relaxed now, and was actually looking forward to her pedicure. Maybe by the time her massage was over, she'd be relaxed enough to look forward to the dinner. Or maybe she'd need a drink or two before she could go into that feeling relaxed. They would go to Bulma's from here, with plenty of time to pass as they readied themselves for the party before the rest of the dinner guests would start arriving. There, in Bulma's massive home, there would be plenty of places to hide, which Chi-Chi might need if Bulma started getting conversational with her. At least Eighteen and whoever else arrived early would be there as buffers. Bulma would be busy directing her hired help in preparation for the dinner anyways. And nothing Bulma ever said to Chi-Chi really stuck with her anyways. She could let it roll off her shoulders, and she certainly would. Chi-Chi just hoped Goku didn't say or do something that would embarrass her at this dinner. His words and actions, she always took to heart.

Chapter Text

As Chi-Chi's hands wound busily around the top of her head, she admired her appearance coming together in the mirror. The dark braids pinched between her fingers were now wrapped around the base of her sleek bun, nearly finishing the elaborate hairstyle as Chi-Chi secured the braided bun with one hand while using the other to reach for the pins on the dresser.

"Hey, that looks nice, Chi-Chi!" Bulma raised her cylindrical glass above the creamy skin revealed by the plunging neckline of her orange gown.

Chi-Chi pinned her hair, watching in the mirror Bulma's smile and Eighteen's scowl as her blonde friend pulled back her blond locks with a comb. Bulma was behind them with her hair already curled, sipping her rum and coke while propping her free hand on her satin-draped hip, while Eighteen was right by Chi-Chi's side, taking up most of the mirror.

"You need to give me some pointers sometime." Bulma said. "You always do these elaborate hairstyles and make it look so easy."

"Tell me about it." Eighteen grumbled, fussing with her hair and frowning into the mirror beside Chi-Chi. "I have no patience for this."

Chi-Chi raised a brow, smiling at Eighteen's struggle as she reached for the hairspray. "It's not like you two have to worry about it. Mine is just so long, I have to do something with it. Your hair's too short for this style, and it's gorgeous when it's down, anyways."

"Well," Eighteen shrugged, "if you say so."

As Eighteen released her silky blond strands, which cascaded beautifully at the sides of her face, Chi-Chi smiled and then closed her eyes tightly to spray her hair. The quick hiss of the aerosol spray and the nearly intoxicating fumes of the chemical made her scrunch her eyes shut and keep her lips tightly sealed as she waited for the sticky mist to dissipate.

When Chi-Chi opened her eyes, Eighteen coughed and waved a hand in front of her face. "I'm just going to brush my hair and put that damn clip in it, and Krillin better be impressed that I bothered to change it up."

Chi-Chi and Bulma both laughed. With one last admiring glance in the mirror at her lips that matched her manicure, which were complimented by her long dark lashes and beautiful diamond earrings, Chi-Chi twirled towards Bulma, enjoying the feel of her long black dress sliding softly across the skin of her thigh as the fabric fanned around her and parted at the high slit.

"Don't you have to help the planners, Bulma?" Chi-Chi asked as she made her way to her friend's side.

Bulma coifed her impeccable curls and smiled. "My mother was so damn excited about the planning, I just told her she could take over and have at it. I just want to have fun tonight."

Eighteen narrowed her eyes at the mirror while affixing her shimmering, sparkling, curved clip at her side part. "Your mother's staying for the party?"

"And my father."

"Then," Chi-Chi said, "who's watching Trunks?"

Bulma rolled her eyes. "Yajirobe. We're overpaying him for the job, so that lazy shit better not screw up."

Eighteen whirled from the mirror to face Bulma. "And why are you overpaying him if you know he's lazy?"

"Because," Bulma sipped her drink as her eyes sparkled over the rim with amusement, "I'm fairly certain Vegeta bribed Trunks to behave badly for the guy."

"That's awful!" Chi-Chi exclaimed while Eighteen chuckled. "Next time, Trunks can stay with Goten. My father wouldn't mind watching him."

"Oh?" Bulma raised her brows. "So now you don't mind the boys having sleepovers, Chi-Chi?"

Though Bulma's expression and tone were good natured and curious, Chi-Chi had gone through this with Bulma too many times not to see when she was starting something. Immediately, Chi-Chi lowered her brows in an intense glare.

"Let's not do that tonight." Eighteen stepped between them, flicking her jeweled locks over her shoulder with a sly smile. "This is a night for fun. I won't have any fun if my bitches are behaving like bitches."

Bulma gaped at Eighteen for only a second before shooting a smile at Chi-Chi. "Point taken. Sorry, Cheech."

Chi-Chi inwardly sighed at the narrowly averted drama. "It's okay, Bulma."

"Okay, Ladies!" Bulma beamed and clapped her hands together. "Let's have a toast."

As Bulma turned to the sidebar behind her, grabbing and offering two clinking, filled glasses of rum and coke to match her half-full one, Chi-Chi and Eighteen exchanged a glance. Just short of five o'clock, this was starting early, but Chi-Chi knew what they'd be in for today. Besides, Chi-Chi could use the alcohol's calming, numbing effect before the rest of the guests would start arriving. The second she thought of how soon she would see Goku, Chi-Chi snatched her drink from Bulma's hand and took a large gulp of the sparkling, burning, spiced drink.

"Hey!" Bulma complained. "Wait a minute."

"Somebody's eager." Eighteen chuckled as she took her glass.

"Okay," Bulma raised her glass, "to my anniversary. May I stay happily married to my proud, strong, handsome husband for as long as we live."

"Happy Anniversary!" Everyone clinked glasses, before taking a modest sip in sync with one another.

Eighteen dabbed a finger against her moist bottom lip and looked to Bulma. "Nice. Was that practice for your speech during dinner?"

"No. That speech is much longer."

"Oh," Eighteen frowned, "great."

As Chi-Chi smoothed a hand over her smooth, flat belly and downed another hefty swig of her drink, the bedroom door barged open, revealing to them a well-dressed, handsome, but moody intruder storming into the room.

"You need to get out here and do something about your mother."

Eighteen immediately scowled. "Nice to see you, too, Vegeta."

"You should've knocked." Chi-Chi said. "We could've still been undressed in here."

Vegeta cast Chi-Chi a withering glare before his gaze trained on Bulma as he marched forward. "She's out of her mind, that woman...Bulma!"

When Chi-Chi shifted her gaze from Vegeta's black-suited attire and deep-set scowl to Bulma's aloof expression, she could actually see why Vegeta was acting like such a jerk. If he ever asked her nicely for things, Bulma would probably trample all over him.

As of now, Bulma was acting very dismissive of her husband's concerns as she raised her chin and ran a hand down the length of her satin-covered hip. "Aren't you forgetting something, Vegeta?"

"I'm not saying please."

Bulma's lip turned down as her brows lowered in a glare. "For the amount of effort I put into this for us, you need to put some effort into this too!"

Vegeta's response was to grunt, raise his chin, and cross his arms. Chi-Chi rolled her eyes and sighed. That man could be so unreasonable. In spite of her problems with Bulma, Chi-Chi had to commend her on lasting as long with Vegeta as she did.

"Fine." Bulma smirked and crossed her arms, mirroring her husband's posture. "Then you can continue to deal with my mother on your own."

Vegeta's jaw visibly clenched, the tension in the side of his face evident as he twisted away from them. Chi-Chi was almost certain they would be rid of him, until he turned around with a frustrated growl.

His eyes darted to Chi-Chi, then Eighteen, a faint blush highlighting his cheeks as he muttered something unintelligible between tight lips.

"What was that?" Bulma smiled. "I didn't hear you."

Vegeta's glare turned on Bulma, his cheeks burning even brighter. "You look beautiful. Now can you do something with her or not?"

After drinking from the final sip of her drink, Bulma smiled and set her empty glass on the sidebar. Chi-Chi furrowed her brows, watching in amazement as Bulma sauntered towards Vegeta, swaying her hips with a look on her face like she'd just won something. When Chi-Chi glanced at Eighteen, her other friend was just as engrossed by the married couple as she was.

Bulma's hand reached to stroke the silky black sleeve of Vegeta's suit jacket, his eyes widening at her touch. "That wasn't so hard, was it? I'll see what Mom needs. Be right back, Ladies."

The three of them watched Bulma leave, her exit leaving them in stagnant silence. Chi-Chi felt there was nothing for her to say to Vegeta. Instead, she turned her gaze towards the darkening, yet picturesque technicolored clouds of dusk within the frame of the window. She slowly sipped her drink, focusing on her own worries about Goku and how she was supposed to behave around him.

"Did you really bribe Trunks to torment Yajirobe, Vegeta?"

Chi-Chi gasped at Eighteen's question before curiously turning her gaze on Vegeta. It was a valid question, though Eighteen seemed more amused by the idea than Chi-Chi thought she should've been.

Vegeta let out an amused huff. "My son doesn't need that useless sloth. He can take care of himself."

Not even bothering to say any form of farewell, Vegeta turned for the door. When he disappeared behind the doorframe, Chi-Chi raised her brows in a silent question at Eighteen.

"I'll take that as a yes."

Chi-Chi giggled. "I think you're right."

As Chi-Chi took a swaying step towards Eighteen, she realized the alcohol was getting to her already. She'd consumed nearly that whole glass very quickly and on an empty stomach. She would have to slow down, or she could end up making a fool of herself this evening.

"Dammit," Eighteen grumbled, peering towards the door, "I should've spent more on Krillin's suit."

Chi-Chi nodded, understanding where Eighteen was coming from. Vegeta looked sharp and distinguished in his burgundy tie and sleek black suit, which looked very high-end. By comparison, anyone in a cheap suit was going to look bad. Chi-Chi was sure Eighteen didn't buy Krillin a cheap suit, but she was certain of someone else who she used to dress for parties like these because he wasn't the type to look for a nice suit or to have it tailored himself.

"Don't worry, Eighteen. I know Krillin won't be the worst-dressed at this party."

Eighteen chuckled, nodding understandingly before she glanced up at the wall past Chi-Chi. "I guess we should get down to the dining room. It's about time for everyone to start arriving."

Chi-Chi raised her brows, surprised by the news, yet when she turned to face the clock, she realized Eighteen was right. It was five minutes to five already. The dinner was to officially start at five-thirty. That meant early guests would be arriving in any minute. With an understanding nod, Chi-Chi hurried to the chaise beneath the window, retrieving the black peep-toe pumps she would be wearing for the evening. As she slipped her feet into them, Eighteen did the same with her silver strappy heels on the opposite side of the room.

When Eighteen stood from adjusting her straps, she smiled at Chi-Chi. "Ready?"

Chi-Chi pressed her shoulders back with a nod. She was as ready as she would ever be.


As expected, Bulma pulled out all the stops for this exquisite, yet intimate affair. Her vast dining room, where the dinner would be hosted, was lit with dim, ambient lighting. The long table was covered in an ornately-stitched, light blue tablecloth and set with matching five-piece china settings. The rectangular floral centerpiece in varying shades of blues and purples traversed the length of the table, while remaining low enough so as not to obscure the guests' views of one another.

Bulma hummed by Chi-Chi's side, waving her champagne glass as she viewed the gathering guests with an approving smile, "looks like about half of us are here."

Chi-Chi darted her eyes curiously around the small crowd filtering through the single door opened into the dining room. Of course all the Briefs were already there, as well as Eighteen. Krillin had arrived with Master Roshi after leaving Marron with Seventeen for the night and next day, the poor child. A few servants, all in white, crisp suited uniforms and carrying trays of appetizers, skirted around two unfamiliar women and then Tien and Yamcha. The two women slowly converged on Tien and Yamcha's conversation as they each plucked a cocktail shrimp from the tray of an attentive server.

Chi-Chi raised her chin in their direction. "Who are those women with Tien and Yamcha, Bulma?"

"Those two are Capsule Corporation employees. Don't worry, though. I didn't invite a ton of employees, just those two."

Eighteen nudged Chi-Chi and frowned. "Why those two?"

Chi-Chi knew exactly what Eighteen was thinking. Both of those women were young, beautiful, and oozing with ambition by the way they carried themselves. They looked like the type of women who needed to be watched around a husband. Eighteen was being protective of Krillin. But at least he was her husband. Unlike Chi-Chi, Eighteen wouldn't have a handsome ex at this party, the mere sight of whom would bring on a whirlwind of emotions after last night.

"The one in the blue dress is our personal assistant."

Bulma shrugged dismissively while Eighteen and Chi-Chi scrutinized the slender blonde woman in a bare-backed blue shimmering cocktail dress with flirtatious eyes set on Yamcha.

"And the one in the strapless jumpsuit," Bulma smiled, "is my lab assistant. They deserved some recognition for their hard work, and since they're our top employees, I figured, why not?"

Chi-Chi could have told Bulma why not. The one in the emerald green jumpsuit with long red hair in a tight ponytail had her boobs nearly popping out of the corset top of her jumpsuit, and even while conversing with Yamcha and Tien, she was eyeing Vegeta from afar like a hawk. Maybe the woman was wise enough not to get on Bulma's bad side by approaching him, or wise enough to realize how abrasive Vegeta would be if she did approach him, but she certainly wasn't making any efforts to hide her interest.

"Bulma," Chi-Chi said, "please tell me these women are married."

"No." Bulma blinked at Chi-Chi. "Why? Does that matter?"

"I-it - No!" Chi-Chi stuttered, bracing her knuckles against her chin as she grit her teeth.

"I'll tell you why it matters." Eighteen grumbled. "Goku's going to be here. She doesn't want to watch some flirty single women hitting on her ex."

"That's-" Chi-Chi nearly growled as she stubbornly shook her head, "that's not true! I don't care who Goku talks to."

She trembled inside as her friends stared back at her. Though she crossed her arms and maintained a stubborn scowl, Chi-Chi was fairly certain her lie was blatantly obvious. Needing to misdirect her friends in some way, any way she could, and avoid further questioning, she uncrossed her arms to violently snatch a quiche from the passing server's tray. Then she popped it into her mouth before chewing almost viciously on the tasty, delicate morsel.

Bulma crossed her arms. "You told me this wouldn't be a problem, Chi-Chi. Now you have a problem with seeing Goku?"

Chi-Chi had told her it wouldn't be a problem, but that was before last night, before they slept together. And now, she didn't know where they stood. She wished she'd had the chance to talk to Goku before this party. They weren't back together, and what happened last night was nobody else's business. But part of her wished so badly that she could say they were together, now more than ever if only to stake her claim and fend off the aggressive women who were obviously scouting for men at this party.

Stubbornly, Chi-Chi crossed her arms again. "I don't have a problem with seeing Goku. We're going to have fun tonight. Right, Eighteen?"

With a puckered frown on her face, Eighteen raised a brow. "Right."

"Good, because look who's here! Come on!" Bulma grabbed Chi-Chi's hand, gleefully hurrying to the entryway with Eighteen in tow. "I've wanted to introduce them to my friends here for the longest time."

As she stumbled forward, nearly tripping over her long dress in her heels at Bulma's hurried pace, Chi-Chi saw a woman with long blonde hair and facial features similar to Bulma's wearing a chiffon blue and black sleeveless gown. Beside her was a shorter man, slim with bulging eyes and an odd purple hat to compliment his purple suit and white tie.

The woman rushed forward as soon as she turned her head to notice Bulma's, Chi-Chi's and Eighteen's approach. "Bulma!"

"Tights! I'm so glad you made it!"

As the women embraced tightly, Chi-Chi glanced at Eighteen, before meeting the scrutinizing gaze of the man crossing his arms by Tights' side.

"Tights," Bulma released the hug and turned towards her friends, "I'd like you to meet my friends Chi-Chi and Eighteen. Ladies, this is my sister!"

Chi-Chi's eyes bulged. She barely recalled Bulma mentioning once that she had a sister. But in all the years Chi-Chi had known Bulma, she never met the woman. Apparently, Bulma's older sister traveled the world for her very important job, which kept her away from home almost indefinitely. Chi-Chi didn't even think Goku had met Bulma's older sister, and he and Bulma knew each other from childhood.

Eighteen raised a brow at Bulma. "You have a sister?"

"Well, yeah." Tights laughed, reaching her hand forward to shake with Eighteen. "It's nice to meet you both. Bulma tells me all about you."

Chi-Chi didn't miss the slight glance Tights gave her, a look of curiosity one would not expect from a stranger. Chi-Chi turned narrowed eyes on Bulma's smiling face. There was no doubt in her mind that Bulma had told Tights all about her. What she told however, Chi-Chi was fairly certain wasn't flattering.

"I know I've missed a lot," Tights said, "but what better time is there to make an appearance in your sister's life than her obscure nine year anniversary party? Oh. And this is Jaco."

The man to whom Tights gestured rolled his eyes before narrowing them at Bulma. "Yeah, I'm here, too. Nice to see you again, Bulma."

Bulma braced her hands on her hips, giving the man a sly smile. "I was waiting for a 'happy anniversary' from you, Jaco. It should be the first thing you say when coming to my party."

Jaco narrowed his eyes. "Happy Anniversary, Bulma. What about this wonderful husband of yours? Can we congratulate him, too?"

"Go right ahead," Bulma gestured towards Vegeta and Krillin, "he's the one with spiky hair right over there."

At the point when Vegeta snapped at Krillin, causing the shorter man to take a step back with a peevish scowl on his face, Jaco's eyes bulged at the scene across the room. But when Tights gave him a gentle shove in that direction, he begrudgingly trudged forward. Tights left with a smile and a nod, giving an unspoken promise to speak with them again later.

"Is Jaco Tights' husband?" Chi-Chi asked.

Bulma snorted, and then laughed and waved a hand dismissively. "No! He's a business partner, that's all."

"There's one single man for you, Chi-Chi."

Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes at Eighteen. "Not my type."

Bulma and Eighteen laughed, while Dr. and Mrs. Brief approached the group. "Honey," Mrs. Brief said, "the caterer seems to have some confusion about dessert."

Chi-Chi watched as the Briefs pulled their daughter aside to question her further. As Chi-Chi turned away from watching the Briefs step aside, she was shocked by who she saw walking through the door. Immediately, she tugged on Eighteen's bare arm.

"Look who it is."

"Who?" Eighteen tilted her head, scrutinizing the man with a mustache and slicked-back hair in patent shoes and a red suit, strutting into the room with a toothy grin on his face. "Have I seen him somewhere before?"

"Chi-Chi?" Hercule's blue eyes bulged at the sight of her as he turned towards her from the doorway. "What are you doing here?"

Chi-Chi placed a hand on her hip. "I was just about to ask you the same thing."

"W-well I," Hercule's eyes traveled up and down the length of Chi-Chi's dress, before he glanced warily at Eighteen's scrutinizing gaze, "I was invited."

Eighteen narrowed her eyes. "Where do I know you from?"

"Hercule Satan, this is my friend Eighteen." Chi-Chi smirked. "You two might remember each other from when we met at the sushi bar parking lot."

"Oh." Eighteen's eyes widened, before she turned a sly smile on Chi-Chi. "I see."

Hercule prodded his finger in the air towards Eighteen. "Ah! The friend you were with. I remember."

"Well," Eighteen smirked and crossed her arms, "it's a small world, isn't it?"

"But how do you know Bulma?"

Hercule raised his chin and braced his hands on his hips. "Everyone knows me, Ladies. I am famous around here."

"Mr. Satan?" The high-pitched call of his name had Hercule immediately turning to the voice. "Is that really you?"

Seeing the blue-dressed personal assistant nearly throwing herself at Mr. Satan, Chi-Chi scoffed. This was going to be a long, difficult party to get through if things didn't start changing. Without even needing to look, Chi-Chi heard the approach of a server from behind and reached out an expectant hand, grasping a glass of bubbling champagne as she turned to pull it from the tray. Chi-Chi took a swig, closing her eyes as she enjoyed the sweet momentary escape of the delicious bubbling sensation in her mouth.

"If you'll excuse me," Chi-Chi opened her eyes to see Hercule smiling at her and feel him placing his warm hand on her bare shoulder, "I will see you ladies later. Nice to meet you, Eighteen."

"Likewise." Eighteen raised her glass before taking a sip.

As the wrestler and the assistant walked side by side, starting their own conversation, Chi-Chi looked around the room and sighed. Starting from her left, everything looked the same as she expected to see it. Bulma was directing a server with a haughty attitude, Dr. and Mrs. Brief were laughing and chatting, Krillin had started conversation with Piccolo, who'd arrived without Chi-Chi's notice, and Tien, Yamcha and Vegeta were gathered around an older woman whom Chi-Chi hadn't seen, who had the three men stuck listening to her in boredom as she prattled on. While Tights and Jaco conversed with the lab assistant from Capsule Corp, Chi-Chi turned her gaze towards the door, her jaw dropping at the sight she saw.

Goku was there with his gaze set in the opposite direction - the last to arrive, as usual. At the sight of his unexpectedly polished appearance, Chi-Chi swallowed thickly. His black hair was in its usual state of disarray, his face was clean-shaven, but he was dressed in a way Chi-Chi had never seen him. His suit looked like it came right out of a male's fashion catalog; it was tailored perfectly to his shape. The dark navy material nearly appeared black where shadows fell over it. The soft material bunched and pulled at all the right places, and while he casually wore the jacket open, the fitted, matching vest beneath it was buttoned below his bright blue tie, accentuating his tapered waistline.

"Goku! Lookin' sharp!" Krillin shouted, drawing Goku to smile at the crowd directly in front of him. "Where have you been? We've been waiting for you!"

"All right!" Bulma called loudly, raising her hands to grab everyone's attention. "Now that we're all here, let's take our seats. Everyone, find your place setting!"

Chi-Chi hesitated, watching Goku give Krillin a quick greeting before leading his friend towards the table as he curiously glanced around the room. She wanted to say something to him, but didn't know how. Besides, even if she had the chance, she didn't know what to say to him right now.

"Come on," Eighteen said, "let's find our seats. I'm probably sitting with Krillin."

"Actually," Bulma cut between them, gracefully gliding her way to the table, "you're not. I seated the men on one side, women on the other. That way, we can actually have some engaging conversation."

"Really?" Eighteen frowned as Bulma drifted apart from them. "That's really romantic for your anniversary, Bulma."

"She has a point, though." Chi-Chi shrugged. "All those men ever want to talk about is food, fighting and competing."

"And girls. Don't forget that."

A deep frown crossed Chi-Chi's face as her eyes drifted to Master Roshi. The old man was cackling, pulling out a chair between Mr. Satan and Jaco with his eyes locked on Krillin and Yamcha directly across from him. Chi-Chi shook her head, taking another sip of champagne as she circled the table, reading the scripted name tags on each place setting in search of her own.

"Here, Chi-Chi." Bulma took the head of the table, patting on the seat beside hers. "This is your seat."

Chi-Chi nodded before sweeping her black gown to the side and sliding into the cushioned dining chair. When she looked to her other side, she was relieved to see Eighteen taking the seat beside hers, while on Eighteen's other side sat the Capsule Corporation women. As Chi-Chi sat upright and admired the elaborate place setting in front of her, the neatly folded cloth napkin and polished silverware, she took a deep breath. Her heart was fluttering in her chest already, and they were only getting ready to eat. When she looked up from her plate, she saw Tights sitting directly across from her, giving her an encouraging smile. It was almost as if Tights knew what she was going through, but Tights couldn't have any idea. No one had any idea - aside from maybe Goku.

When Chi-Chi looked down the line of people seated on the opposite side of the table, her gaze panned over Mrs. Brief, then the older stranger, then Mr. Satan, Master Roshi, Jaco, Dr. Brief, and finally Goku seated by Vegeta's side at the other head of the table. When her eyes landed on Goku's handsome face, his eyes darted to her immediately, catching her gaze before she had the chance to look away. Chi-Chi gasped, gripping her utensils tightly on the table as her eyes locked on his mesmerizing gaze.

"Would you like the duck or the fish, Madame?"

Chi-Chi jumped at the nearness of the soft male voice and warm air brushing over her ear, her gaze drifting upwards as she craned her neck. "W-what?"

"Duck or fish, Chi-Chi." Bulma pressed impatiently.

"Oh. F-fish, please."

"Very good. And you, Madame?"

As the servant stepped to Eighteen's side, making his way down the line, Chi-Chi felt tempted to look Goku's way again. But when she turned her eyes on Bulma, her friend was watching her closely. Maybe she shouldn't show too much attention towards Goku - that would be acting suspicious. With a shake of her head, Chi-Chi took a final swig from her champagne glass, cleared her throat, and set the empty glass on the table.

"So," Eighteen leaned forward, smiling at Chi-Chi and Bulma, "I'm glad we're sitting together, because I went shopping yesterday and had no one to share my finds with aside from Krillin, Marron and Master Roshi."

"Oh." Bulma smiled and shook her head. "You poor thing."

"Marron's reaction was adorable," Eighteen beamed, "but Krillin thinks I look great in everything. I could wear a paper bag and he would compliment me."

Bulma giggled. "Ah, Krillin."

Chi-Chi clasped her hands together in her lap. "He's sweet."

"Yeah, but sometimes you just need someone to be brutally honest." Eighteen groaned. "And then Master Roshi wanted me to model the dresses for him. Screw that."

"Yeah," Bulma scoffed and cast a glare down the length of the table which the old man seemed capable of sensing as he turned his gaze towards them, "that old perv is just looking for an excuse to sneak a peek at you changing and ogle your shape in sexy dresses."

"So what did you buy, Eighteen?"

Chi-Chi raised her gaze at the sound of Tights' curious voice, while Mrs. Brief clutched her hands together and squealed, "Oh! I love shopping."

Eighteen smirked and reached into the gap between the tightly pressed cleavage of her fitted red dress. Chi-Chi's eyes went wide at the sight of what Eighteen was doing, before she looked around the table, checking whether anyone outside of this conversation was noticing this. Strangely enough, it seemed all the men had missed it as Eighteen pulled out a tiny phone.

"Let me show you." As Eighteen stretched her arm across Chi-Chi, extending the phone screen to where most of the women could see it, Chi-Chi half-heartedly viewed the photos of clothing swiped across the screen of Eighteen's little phone.

While the Brief women became absorbed by the images sliding across Eighteen's phone, a server circled around the table, pouring water into everyone's empty glasses, while a second server trailed behind him, delivering full glasses of champagne to all eighteen guests, and two more followed, working in tandem to deliver steaming plates of food.

"Ah, this all looks splendid," Mr. Satan called across the table, past the chattering women crowded over Eighteen's phone, "doesn't it, Chi-Chi?"

"Yes." Chi-Chi smiled. "Is this the first of Bulma's dinners you've been invited to, Mr. Satan?"

"I'm afraid so."

"Well, get used to it." Chi-Chi giggled. "Bulma doesn't know how to throw a small party."

As Hercule laughed and sipped his drink, Chi-Chi joined him in laughing, before turning to her water glass. The food smelled delicious, and the servers were coming to her plate. Leaning back to make room for the servers, Chi-Chi noticed the two young women beside Eighteen giggling and whispering to one another. When she noticed that they kept looking in Goku's direction, Chi-Chi tensed. Of course they would notice Goku. No woman in her right mind would fail to notice that tall, handsome man dressed the way he was. Especially with that aura he gave off, laughing and joking over there with his friends, the life of the party as usual.

"Ooh." The redhead in the jumpsuit hissed through her teeth, "So fine. Do you think I have a chance?"

As the Briefs' assistant speculated with her coworker in whispers, Chi-Chi clenched her grip around her silverware. There was no way she would be able to just sit through this party and watch those women make a move on Goku. Even worse would be if she let it happen and he let it happen. She could hear her teeth grinding as conversation continued around her, the women by her side oblivious to her rage.

"You see that, Chi-Chi?"

Bulma's displeased tone made Chi-Chi jump and turn to the heiress with wide eyes. "Huh?"

"Capsa and Rue." Bulma nodded towards the women who'd captured Chi-Chi's attention. "They're checking him out."

Confused by Bulma's ire, Chi-Chi furrowed her brows. "I know."

Chi-Chi observed Bulma curiously with a cock of her head. It wasn't surprising that Bulma noticed, as she was always the observant type, but what was odd to Chi-Chi was that she was angry about it. If anything, Chi-Chi would expect Bulma to be happy to see women wanting to go after her single friend she was so tired of seeing alone. And yet, Chi-Chi was just glad someone besides her could see what was happening.

Glaring at the giggling women, Chi-Chi crossed her arms. "They couldn't be more obvious."

"That takes a lot of nerve at an anniversary party. I know Vegeta's irresistible, but he's mine and this is my anniversary celebration." Bulma sprang to her feet, lifting her champagne glass and raising her voice. "It's time for my toast."

Chi-Chi blinked, raising her glass slowly as she turned a curious gaze on Vegeta. He was sitting with an impassive frown on his face as Bulma stood over the seated congregation. He did look handsome, which momentarily made Chi-Chi wonder if Bulma was right. Maybe this Capsa and Rue were checking out Vegeta the whole time. But when Goku's eyes traveled past the women to their end of the table, seeking Bulma's smiling face, Capsa and Rue's faces lit with excitement.

Goku seemed oblivious to their attention, but Chi-Chi couldn't help hearing Capsa mutter under her breath, "what a hunk."

She saw red. And as Bulma began her speech, spouting pretty words about Vegeta that Chi-Chi couldn't comprehend through her reddened haze, Chi-Chi snatched her cloth napkin, wringing it tightly with both hands under the table. When that motion subdued some of her anger, she was finally able to catch some of Bulma's speech.

"…and when Vegeta is, so am I. I do whatever I can for my husband, and though he doesn't show his feelings often, I know he would do anything for me." Bulma smiled coyly at Vegeta, causing everyone to turn their heads and look at his stubborn frown and rosy cheeks. "So I know nine years seems like an odd time for such a big celebration. But when has that ever stopped me from celebrating?"

"Yeah...that's our Bulma!" Yamcha slurred, causing Chi-Chi to duck her head and stifle a giggle.

"Marriage," Bulma sighed, eyeing the rising golden bubbles contained in the fluted glass in her hand, "is about more than being happy together. It's about staying committed to each other, even when you're unhappy. Even when you want to strangle the other person, you have to remember that this is the person you love, and he loves you. At the end of the day, I wouldn't want to live without Vegeta. And I know he'd be devastated without yours truly."

When Bulma pressed a hand delicately against her bare collarbone with a playful smile on her face, a fit of light laughter filled the room.

"When I decided to have this dinner, I didn't care that this wasn't a ten year anniversary or some landmark we all consider relevant, because every year that you survive a marriage is relevant. Every year is worth celebrating. And…" Bulma raised her glass, her eyes shimmering with moisture as they locked on Vegeta across the table, "I would celebrate one year, three years, five years, nine years all again if I could, because every one was a year I spent with you, Vegeta. Happy Anniversary."

"Cheers! Cheers!" The high-pitched trills of glasses clinking together filled the room as the guests toasted each of their neighbors.

Chi-Chi sipped her champagne and trained her eyes on Bulma retaking her seat. Bulma looked so happy, so content with her life. And when Chi-Chi cast a sidelong glance at Vegeta at the other end of the table, she was surprised to see a genuine smile briefly cross his face as he sipped his champagne. She allowed her eyes to shift subtly to Goku, trying to remain discreet as she took another sip of champagne.

He might as well have been surrounded in a halo of light with the way she saw him at that moment. Maybe it was the champagne getting to her, or maybe it was the romantic notions of Bulma's speech. But all Chi-Chi could see when she looked at Goku was what she was missing out on. Where was their twelfth year, their thirteenth year? They had been stolen from them. Even if she had to take Goku in small doses with a few disappearances here and there, that had to be better than suffering any more lost years. A successful marriage meant taking the good with the bad. But she was scared that the bad might once again outweigh the good.

"Now, let's eat!" Vegeta yelled from the opposite end of the table, before ravenously diving into his meal.

"And then," Bulma added with a mischievous smirk, "we can really get this party started."

Raising her utensils, Chi-Chi set her gaze on the steaming grilled fish, potatoes, green beans and aromatic rosemary sprig garnishing her plate. As the five-piece band in the next room started playing light classical music to accompany their meal, Chi-Chi took an appreciative sniff of the mouth-watering food. Eating should have been the easy part of the evening. But with her stomach in knots over the impending hours of dancing, music, drinking and socializing, her appetite was failing her.

Poking her fork into her light, flaky fish, Chi-Chi cast a sidelong glance at the other end of the table again. When she caught sight of Goku eating with his eyes locked intently on her before he hurriedly looked away, she had to take a settling breath and blow it out. Surviving this party was not going to be easy.

Chapter Text

A/N: Happy New Year, everyone! I'm ready for 2016 to be over. Anyways, I have to say that from now on I'm going to avoid writing Chi-Chi drunk. It feels out of character for her to be drunk in the first place, so keeping her in character in that state and writing from a drunken perspective was extremely tricky. But hopefully I managed it.


As Chi-Chi tilted the glass stemware in her hand to and fro, Eighteen's huff of amusement and Hercule's booming laughter carried through her ears like an underwater garble. Though the large room was washed in darkness, the flashing, colored lights playing from the ceiling and across the dance floor rendered just enough illumination for Chi-Chi to make out what was happening around them. While Hercule prattled on with his story, Chi-Chi glanced away from the band playing upbeat, mesmerizing music to see the irritated look on Eighteen's face. Honestly, Chi-Chi was surprised that Eighteen hadn't abandoned this conversation already.

"I think I'm right about this." Hercule concluded. "Don't you agree, Chi-Chi?"

"Hm?" Chi-Chi blinked as she slowly directed her gaze to Hercule's blue eyes. "Oh, yeah."

She didn't even remember what he was talking about. Her attention had deserted that conversation long ago. Instead, it was repeatedly diverting to the threesome standing beside the dance floor. Bulma and Vegeta had been making their way around to their guests, seeking out their congratulations when long ago their progress halted at Goku. It looked like Bulma was asking questions and Vegeta was acting disinterested, but Chi-Chi knew he truly wasn't. Even Vegeta wanted to hear what Goku had to say. Everything was better for everyone when Goku was around.

When a hand grasped her arm, Chi-Chi raised a brow at her friend. The impatient glare Eighteen gave her was quickly, meaningfully directed to the smiling server standing by Eighteen's side who Chi-Chi hadn't even noticed.

"I'll take that, Madame."

Chi-Chi blinked at her glass, taking a final sip before handing it over. But when the server waved an inviting hand at her tray full of filled-to-the-rim drinks, Chi-Chi raised her hand in refusal. She had to stop. She'd had too much already. As it was, a wave of dizziness overcame her with just the simple movement of her gesture. Her heels wobbled beneath her, but she was able to smoothly recover her balance by placing a hand on the nearest surface - Hercule's shoulder.

Hercule laughed. "Guess she's already had one too many. Huh, Chi-Chi?"

"Y-yes." Chi-Chi felt herself flush as she cringed at the embarrassment of being called out on such a thing. "I-I don't usually drink."

"Eh." Eighteen shrugged. "Don't worry about it. A party like this is the perfect time to cut loose."

"Eighteen," Hercule's voice piqued, "have you and Krillin ever been..."

Chi-Chi turned her head, tuning out Hercule in favor of listening the baseline of the music. As she stood there, relaxed by the numbing euphoria of alcohol, she couldn't help nodding her head to the beat. While she did so, she panned her gaze around the party again. Most of the guests were on the dance floor, smiling and dancing to the lively, catchy tune.

She was tempted to go out there herself. When she looked Goku's way again, she could see his gaze drifting from Bulma to the exciting dance floor as he tapped his patent shoe impatiently. Chi-Chi smiled, even as she watched Bulma straighten Goku's wrinkled collar with the kind of familiarity one wouldn't want to see a woman showing the man she fancied.

But Bulma's husband was standing right there, and Chi-Chi would never suspect anything between Goku and Bulma. They were such good friends that Bulma was almost like a big sister to him. She was no competition for Chi-Chi. No woman there was, because Chi-Chi didn't really have a relationship with Goku and if she did, the other women wouldn't stand a chance. But she wondered, if she wanted to have a relationship with Goku again, could she?

At the same time Chi-Chi was making this assessment, and even considering asking Goku to dance with her, another person beat her to approaching Goku and his friends. Chi-Chi clenched her jaw, watching those curvy hips sway to the music as Capsa approached her Goku.

She watched as Goku flinched, surprised by the contact when Capsa lightly touched his arm. When Goku turned his blinking eyes on Capsa's coyly smiling face, Chi-Chi gnawed her bottom lip. He wasn't going to dance with her, though it was obvious she was asking as she giggled in his face and Bulma gave Goku an encouraging smile. He wasn't going to agree - was he?

When Goku shook his head as Capsa grasped his hands and pulled them towards the dance floor, Chi-Chi growled under her breath. Dammit, the alcohol was doing nothing to keep her feelings in check. If anything, it seemed to be doing the opposite. With baited breath, she watched as Goku took a stumbling step towards the dance floor and turned pleading eyes on Bulma and Vegeta. But when Vegeta turned his back on Goku and Bulma gave him a smile and a gentle push, Chi-Chi knew it was actually happening. She had to do something. Balling her fists and swinging her arms as she stormed towards the dance floor in determination, Chi-Chi glared at her target. She was going to cut in and steal that dance. She was going to show-

"Oof!" Chi-Chi grunted, stumbling back when she bumped into something that felt as sturdy as a brick wall.

When she realized it was a person, she ignored his presence, tilting her head to peer over his annoyingly high, obstructive shoulder to reclaim her view of Goku, which was now further tainted by Master Roshi dancing with the other Capsule Corporation employee.

A hand grasped Chi-Chi's, so firmly that she was unable to pull away when his deep voice hit her ears, "You're dancing with me."

"Hey!" Finally removing her gaze from the dancing pair at the other side of the dance floor, Chi-Chi bared her teeth at her captor.

Piccolo gave her a smug smile, but that lasted only a moment before a deep frown crossed his face. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say it looks like you were just about to do something stupid."

As Piccolo's arms wrapped none-too-gently around her, Chi-Chi peeled one of his hands from her waist and crushed it in her grip. "Mind your own business, Piccolo."

Piccolo proceeded with his steps, his dancing style feeling rather stiff to Chi-Chi. When she tried to yank herself free of his grasp, she nearly tripped over her own heels until Piccolo caught her. Enraged and embarrassed by the amused snort she heard escaping Piccolo's lips, Chi-Chi kicked him in the shin. At least she had enough balance for that.

"Dammit!" Piccolo growled and staggered for a few steps as he shook the pain from his injured leg. "You're drunk."

"Of course I am! It's a party, for cryin' out loud. Aren't I allowed to have a little fun?"

"Just be glad Gohan and Goten have never seen you like this."

A brief wave of guilt overcame Chi-Chi, but that quickly disappeared. She was at an adult party, and she would never drink like this in front of her children. Of course, if it was so bad to be in this state in front of her children, she did suppose it was somewhat shameful. But she was no worse than everyone else in attendance, aside from the high and mighty Piccolo.

Chi-Chi snorted. "And I bet you've always been at your best when Gohan's seen you."

Their feet stopped for an instant, until Piccolo resumed his staccato steps. "No. But you're his mother."

Chi-Chi frowned, turning her head when she saw another dancing pair whirl by them. Goku's expression was not one of joy or lust as he danced with the other woman in his arms. Rather, his expression reminded Chi-Chi of his discomfort during the dance lessons she put him up to before their wedding. He looked so cute and helpless out there on the dance floor. Chi-Chi couldn't help giggling at the look on his face, even as that other woman smiled flirtatiously at Goku.

"What's changed?"

Piccolo's unexpected, but pointed question cut Chi-Chi's giggle short as it drew her attention back to him. "What?"

"I've been a part of Gohan's life since before your divorce," Piccolo huffed, "and I've never once seen you act around your ex-husband the way you're acting around him now."

Chi-Chi rolled her eyes. Piccolo couldn't possibly be picking up on what happened last night. She had more alcohol in her than food at the moment. It had to be obvious why she wasn't acting like her usual self.

"You said it yourself, Piccolo. I'm drunk."

"Fine. Then explain Goku's behavior."

"Goku? What behavior?"

Chi-Chi raised her shoulders and her chin, ducking around Piccolo's broad shoulders, not even trying to hide the fact that she was searching for Goku. His red-haired dance partner was twirling across the floor as he lifted her hand over head and watched with a bemused frown. As he slightly swayed, Chi-Chi noted that he looked a little uneasy on his feet tonight, too. But what was he doing that had Piccolo so suspicious?

"I suppose he's drunk, too."

Chi-Chi met Piccolo's gaze with a smirk. "You're probably the only one here who's not, Piccolo."

"I don't drink alcohol."

"That's no excuse to be a wet blanket for the rest of us."

When Chi-Chi tried to push herself away, Piccolo pulled her back in and gave her a stern glare. "Don't do anything you're going to regret. I know if Gohan were here tonight, he'd be getting his hopes up about something that's not going to happen. Whatever you're thinking, Goku hasn't changed."

Chi-Chi shoved away from Piccolo. Outwardly glaring and internally seething, she couldn't find the words she wanted to say to him right away. Piccolo had some nerve, assuming he knew more about Goku than she did. And even if it was a stupid move to pursue Goku tonight, that was her decision to make. Never mind the fact that Piccolo was watching out for her best interest - for her children's best interest. Dammit, that put a damper on the whole idea. He had a valid point.

"People change all the time, Piccolo." Chi-Chi crossed her arms as her words came out in a slur. "Like you. I don't remember you having to be right all the dang time."

Piccolo smirked and straightened his jacket. "That's no change. I've always known what I'm talking about."

Chi-Chi blew a raspberry, then narrowed her eyes at Piccolo. "You don't know what's going on in my head. I only wanted to dance."

Even as she spoke with authority, Chi-Chi couldn't help shooting a sidelong glance in Goku's direction. The sight of another woman shaking her hips at Goku and putting her hands on him put another knot in Chi-Chi's stomach, but she masked her displeasure as her eyes shot back to Piccolo's. However, judging by the disbelieving look in his eyes as he lowered his chin, she knew she was completely transparent.

With a frustrated growl, Chi-Chi clenched her fists by her sides, bared her teeth and raised her voice. "And you're a terrible dance partner!"

Spinning on her heels, Chi-Chi whipped her long black dress around with her head held high as she turned her back to Piccolo's disgruntled frown, the gawking faces of their nearby witnesses, and the lively dance floor. She needed a minute now, away from the loud music, the endless chatter and laughter, the prying eyes, and the flashing, colorful lights. She needed to retreat somewhere with peace and quiet.


The cool, quiet darkness Chi-Chi found in Bulma's vacant kitchen was just the reprieve she needed. With the fingers of her left hand curled around the cold, hard granite ledge of the countertop and her hips propped back against it, she tilted her head back to lift a cold glass of water to her lips. The quenching, cool, unadulterated liquid glided over her tongue, down her throat and settled in her belly, furthering her respite. When she was satisfied, Chi-Chi licked the last drop from her lips and placed the empty glass on the shiny granite countertop behind her.

She rolled her hips against the counter, turning to face the empty sink as she closed her eyes to think. So much was happening lately. Gohan and Goten exceling at school was Chi-Chi's first concern, regardless of what was happening for her. She would never want to do anything to deter them from their success, which was going so well at the moment. What Piccolo said, therefor, was really hitting home. She wouldn't want to deter her children's focus by rekindling something with their father, with whom she had cut ties long ago, only to end up breaking it off with him again when he was bound to leave for another training opportunity.

"Can I help you, Madame?"

Chi-Chi whirled towards the voice at the doorway to see a server in uniform smiling quizzically at her. She had to shake off the jittery feeling brought on by that surprise as she shook her head in refusal. Her time alone had still been too short. She just wanted to be left alone for a little longer.

She met his dark-eyed gaze with a polite smile. "No, thank you. I'm fine."

"Is there something you're looking for?" He clasped his hands together. "The party is out th-"

"I know, but I'm fine."

The server stepped towards her. "Can I get you someth-"

"Just leave me alone!"

The server's eyes bulged as he backed into the hall. With a polite nod, he fled down the hallway, leaving Chi-Chi to her sanctuary again. The fading sound of his hastily retreating footsteps helped Chi-Chi's moment of irritation dissipate. Heaving a sigh to calm herself, Chi-Chi turned on the faucet and refilled her glass. She didn't care if the water wouldn't be cold this time. She needed more time to think. Of course, with the way she was feeling now, she doubted there would ever be enough time. Her head was in a fog thanks to Bulma and Vegeta and their stupid plethora of alcohol at this gluttonous party. Regardless of all of her logical reasons, Chi-Chi still couldn't shake the feeling that she wanted to see more of Goku. She wanted to feel his arms wrapped around her again. She wanted him with all his faults.

As she guzzled down another mouthful of water, Chi-Chi could hear the return of footsteps in the hallway outside. With a satisfied sigh and her eyes locked on the reflective surface of the sink, Chi-Chi removed the glass from her lips and called towards the doorway behind her, "I said I'm fine. I can get whatever I need in here myself."

The footsteps stopped at the doorway, causing Chi-Chi to furrow her brows. She knew the server would have responded to her, but whoever was there hadn't answered or even walked away, or she would hear their voice or retreating footsteps on the tiles. With a curious tilt of her head, Chi-Chi set her water glass on the counter.

The footsteps came closer. "Um…hi, Chi-Chi."

At that familiar voice, Chi-Chi whirled around to set her eyes on the strikingly handsome face of the man she'd been obsessing over all night. "Goku."

A small smile tugged at his lips before he nervously rubbed the back of his head and stepped towards the refrigerator with his gaze fixated on Chi-Chi. Chi-Chi willed her heart to calm down, but the damn thing wouldn't listen to her. Being alone with him in such quiet and solitude after what happened between them was almost more awkward than being in the dining room and ballroom surrounded by other people.

Chi-Chi watched as Goku's Adam's apple bobbed up and down with a thick swallow. "You look…nice."

"So do you." Chi-Chi rubbed her lips together, trying to keep her gaze locked on his, but feeling tempted to shy away. "Where…where did you get that suit?"

"This?" Goku pulled at the silky navy blue material of his vest with a frown. "Oh. Bulma made me buy it. She said I'd be uninvited from dinner unless I dressed the part. Whatever part that is."

As Goku looked down at himself with a frown of distaste, Chi-Chi smiled and shook her head. She couldn't believe he would look himself over and not see what she was seeing. But that was just Goku. Fancy clothes and shoes meant nothing to him – probably never would. In all honesty, she already missed her more conservative flowing dresses and pants, as opposed to this restraining, revealing number she was wearing now.

"Are you enjoying the party?"

"Y-yeah." Chi-Chi smiled, sidestepping along the ledge as Goku approached the countertop and casually leaned an elbow on it. "Who wouldn't at this extravagant party? Bulma really knows how to pull out all the stops."

Goku shrugged. "Dinner was good."

"You didn't enjoy the dancing?"

"You danced with Piccolo."

The amused expression on Goku's face made Chi-Chi's eyes narrow. "I saw you dancing out there, too."

Goku frowned, his eyes averting from Chi-Chi for a moment before he looked at her again, his expression suddenly taking on a serious note. "Who's that guy you were talking with at dinner?"

"Huh?"

"I'm much more handsome than him, you know."

A moment of pause, and Chi-Chi let out a laugh from deep within her belly. "Mr. Satan? Of course you are. Why would you say that?"

Goku blinked. "Mr. Satan?"

"Videl's father. I met him at that teacher conference you didn't want to go to."

Goku's brows knit together before they lifted high on his forehead. When a smile of realization lit Goku's face, Chi-Chi smiled and rolled her eyes. Then Goku took a stumbling step towards her.

Chi-Chi felt uneasy about his nearness, but stubbornly grasped a hand on the countertop ledge and held her ground. "You almost sound like you're jealous."

"Me? Jealous?" Goku laughed. "I don't know. I think I'm drunk, Chi-Chi."

Chi-Chi laughed, more flirtatiously than she intended. "Yes, you are. To be honest, I am too. Maybe…we shouldn't be talking right now."

"Hm?"

Chi-Chi flinched at the unexpected closeness of Goku's face. She hadn't even realized he was still coming forward, but the nearness of him, the scent of his skin, hit her like a train. Taking a staggering breath, she slid her hips along the counter to scoot away from his intoxicating presence.

"We might say something," Chi-Chi licked her lips and nervously tugged at her earring, "we'll both regret."

"But after what happened last night," Goku took a deep breath and met Chi-Chi's gaze with a look of uncertainty in his eyes, "I was kinda hoping…"

As Goku's hand slowly lifted, Chi-Chi smiled at the softness in his eyes. Her eyes fell to his hand as his fingers playfully slid up her bare arm, giving her a teasing taste of the touch she craved. Her eyes flickered towards the entryway with concern over being spotted with him in such a compromising position. But she quickly refocused on Goku, noting the resolute look in his dilated eyes.

"I miss coming home to my family every night, Chi-Chi."

Chi-Chi's heart skipped a beat. For a moment, she was absolutely unable to speak. This was exactly what she wanted to hear from him, and exactly what she dreaded at the same time. This hope could be the greatest torture she'd ever known. There were still so many loose ends, and he was drunk. For all she knew, he didn't even know what he was offering. She was certain he hadn't thought through all of the issues over which she'd been racking her brain. How this would affect their sons. His training. The traveling. The fights with Whis as his new trainer. What their friends would think. As much as she wanted to, Chi-Chi couldn't agree with Goku. She had to put her foot down. With a few practice movements of her mouth, she finally willed her lips and tongue to work in her favor again.

"You can't, Goku."

Goku balked. "Huh?"

Chi-Chi closed her eyes and huffed. "This isn't just about me and you. Gohan and Goten will be heartbroken if they think we're gettin' back together and then it doesn't work out."

"But you want to try, don'cha?"

More than anything. Clutching her hand to her pounding chest and clenching her eyes tightly shut, Chi-Chi shook her head. She had to think of the boys and do what was best for them. They were content as they were. All she had to do was tell him no and put this all to rest. Then they could go back to the way it was.

Her answer came out in a whisper. "Yes."

Chi-Chi's eyes flew open. She was shocked by her own answer. Goku's response of a brilliant smile only deepened her commitment to her answer when she unwillingly smiled back. She couldn't resist that boyish grin on that handsome face, that light in his eyes like she had rarely seen for the past few years.

"Great!"

With a gasp, Chi-Chi hurriedly raised a rigid finger in his face. "On one condition."

Goku blinked and let out a curious hum.

"It has to be just between us." Chi-Chi shook her head and knit her brows, having trouble believing she was actually saying this. "Gohan and Goten can't know until we know it's going to work. That means nobody else can know either, 'cause your friends are a bunch of blabbermouths."

Goku snickered. "Ah, Chi-Chi."

"I mean it!" Chi-Chi prodded that pointing finger into the tip of Goku's nose. "Or you can forget it."

Goku frowned and backed away, rubbing a hand over his nose as he cocked his head at Chi-Chi. She knew he was deciding whether she was truly serious about this, and she couldn't blame him. There had been plenty of times she'd threatened him with no bite behind her bark. But this was not one of those times, and as Goku's eyes seemed to sober before her narrowed eyes, Chi-Chi recognized that Goku realized the gravity of her words.

With a small smile, he nodded his head. "Okay, Chi-Chi. If that's what you want."

Chi-Chi's gaze softened as she let out a breath of relief. Of course, she didn't know why she was feeling relieved. She'd just agreed to give another chance to the relationship she'd laid to bed long ago, which frankly scared the hell out of her. And Goku's beautiful smile was directed at her. Suddenly the awkwardness was back, this time in the form of giddy excitement she could hardly contain, though she wished to be mature about this. She wasn't doing too well with that, especially when she noticed Goku's eyes traversing her body and she was unable to ward off the heat rushing to her face.

She found herself leaning into Goku, and as she moved closer, she watched his cheeks turn a lovely shade of crimson. At least she wasn't the only one. As Goku's lips slightly parted and his big eyes remained fixed on her face, Chi-Chi connected her lips to the soft stubble of his cheek, giving him a light peck.

Goku beamed when she pulled away and clasped her hands together. Touching his fingertips to the freshly kissed cheek, he turned towards the refrigerator and cast a quick, but meaningful sidelong glance at Chi-Chi. When he opened the door to engulf the dim kitchen in its light and leaned down to inspect the refrigerator contents, Chi-Chi's jaw dropped.

"You came in here for food?"

"Well, yeah." Goku laughed as he rummaged through the fridge and pulled out a few items. "I'm still hungry."

Chi-Chi crossed her arms and scowled as Goku set a few plastic containers on the counter and kicked the refrigerator door closed. "Didn't you have enough to eat at the dinner?"

Goku turned to her with a guilty, answering smile as he peeled back a tupperware lid. But when he saw the discontent written across Chi-Chi's face, he frowned. His entire demeanor became apologetic as he disregarded the containers full of food and shifted towards her.

"I didn't know you'd be in here, Chi-Chi. But I'm glad you were!" When Chi-Chi scoffed at him, Goku grasped Chi-Chi's hands in his. "I really wanted to talk to you before we left here. I was goin' to find you after the party."

"You were?"

"Mm-hm." Goku smiled and released Chi-Chi's hands when she softened her gaze. "Of course! You didn't think we were gonna get through the night without talkin' to each other, did'ya?"

As Chi-Chi considered the fact that she foolishly had thought it was possible for them to get through the party without a conversation, Goku turned back to his food and dug a hand in to pull out a plump, round dumpling. When he shoved it in his mouth cold, Chi-Chi wrinkled her nose. Goku's tastes in food were far from picky. She'd never eat a cold dumpling. As she watched him chewing, Goku turned a blinking gaze on her and gulped down the massive bite he'd taken.

"Want one?"

"No."

Chi-Chi grimaced as Goku dug in for another. She couldn't believe he was going back for more. So perturbed was she by Goku's gluttonous display that Chi-Chi didn't realize she was staring. Goku turned a curious gaze on her as he filled his mouth with a third, before finally sealing the lid around the container again.

Chi-Chi shook her head out of her daze, fighting the wave of unsteadiness brought on by the quick movement by spreading her arms widely. "Woah, okay. I better get back to the party."

"Wait! I'll come with you."

Goku snatched an apple from the bowl of fruit on the countertop before joining Chi-Chi by her side at the doorway. Frowning, Chi-Chi walked into the hall with him by her side, listening to the crunch of the apple as he sunk his teeth into its shiny red surface. As her heels clacked loudly on the tiles in the dark, vacant hallway, Chi-Chi pursed her lips pensively. She didn't think this was such a good idea. Someone might get suspicious if they saw them walking back into the ballroom together.

"Goku," she said, "I think you should go ahead of me."

"Why?"

Chi-Chi exhaled through her nose and stopped walking to smile at his clueless expression. "I'll see you out there. We just shouldn't go together."

His disappointed pout had Chi-Chi pressing her lips together to stifle a giggle. She didn't know how a man who could be so attractive at times, and such a jerk at others, could look so innocently adorable. A smirk pulled at Chi-Chi's lips as her inhibition-free state allowed her to send him off with a move she'd usually deem inappropriate.

When Goku turned to continue down the hall, taking another bite of his half-eaten apple, Chi-Chi struck her hand out, causing a loud smack as her palm lashed across his firm ass. "Now, go!"

Goku yelped and jumped at the contact. Then he glanced over his shoulder with wide eyes and flushed cheeks. "Chi-Chi!"

Chi-Chi giggled and raised her hand to nibble coyly on her fingernail. When Goku warily turned his back to her again, Chi-Chi's shoulders shook as she let her voice fill the hall with quiet laughter. She knew he was surprised, but he was also likely smiling now. He always liked it when she did the unexpected, though she couldn't believe she'd pulled that move herself. This was why she didn't drink.

When Goku was a few paces away, Chi-Chi considered calling out to him, but when another figure entered the hallway from the direction of the party where Goku was headed, she was glad she hadn't done that. At the sight of the bald man standing there in a black suit and red tie, Chi-Chi pressed her lips together tightly. Krillin took a swaggering step forward, wagging his finger in the air as his eyes lit on them and a mischievous smile crossed his face.

"Krillin!"

As Krillin stumbled towards them, Goku's jovial call seemed unheeded by Krillin's ears. "Hey! Don't you kids get into trouble now."

Goku stepped forward to meet Krillin and patted him on the shoulder. "You okay, Buddy?"

Krillin laughed, hiccupping and leaning into Goku's supportive weight as his eyes darted to Chi-Chi. "Not as okay as you are, apparently. Watch your step with that one, Goku. She can be mean."

Krillin was obviously ready for bed. Eighteen would be pissed if she saw him like this.

Placing her hands on her hips, Chi-Chi rolled her eyes and snorted. "You wanna see mean? I'll kick your ass upstairs if you don't go up there yourself and call it a night."

Krillin grimaced as his eyes went wide and flitted to Goku, who could only shrug at his friend. "Want me to help you up, Krillin?"

"No." Krillin shook his head and righted himself as he released his hold on Goku. "No, I can get up there myself. You have fun at the party, Goku." Krillin snickered. "Hercule and Vegeta are doing shots out there."

Chi-Chi gasped with Goku, her eyes going wide as Krillin laughed.

"Mr. Satan and Vegeta?" Chi-Chi asked.

"Yeah. Hercule was dumb enough to think he could out-drink Vegeta."

"They're competing?! I'll see ya out there, Chi-Chi!"

As Goku clenched his fists and bounded past his inebriated friend, Chi-Chi gawked at the amazing speed of his departure. Listening to his bounding footsteps, it was as if he hadn't been drunk in the first place. Where he found that remarkable tolerance, Chi-Chi had no idea. But she already knew that Vegeta was in for a hell of a competition, and Hercule would be waking up with a doozy of a hangover.

"Yeah," Krillin huffed, "goodnight to you too, Buddy."

Chi-Chi smiled after Goku, before biting her lip and casting her eyes apologetically at Krillin's wan expression. "Are you going to be all right, Krillin? Do you need me to get Eighteen?"

"No!" Krillin panicked for a brief moment, clinging to Chi-Chi's arm. "No. I'm going to bed."

When Krillin released his grip and reached a hand to the knot of the red tie at his throat to loosen it, Chi-Chi watched him carefully. She would feel terrible if she left him alone in that state and he had a fall down the stairs or something else awful happened to him.

"I'm fine, Chi-Chi, really." Krillin reassured her with a wave. "I didn't mean what I said, by the way."

Chi-Chi was already turning to head to the party, but glanced over her shoulder with a curious frown. "Hm?"

"You're not mean. You're really nice. Actually."

Chi-Chi smiled, blinking happily at the compliment. "Thanks, Krillin."

"Just don't be too nice to Goku, if you know what I mean."

"Huh?"

Krillin let out a heavy sigh and lazily twirled towards the stairs, in the opposite direction of the ballroom where Goku had headed. "Even a hint of having another chance with you, and we'll never be able to get that guy to move on. Took the dummy a few years to realize your divorce wasn't just a temporary thing."

Krillin's casual remark left Chi-Chi in a daze as she stood alone in the hall, debating whether to return to the party or retire to her assigned guest room for the night herself. As Krillin trudged towards the stairs, Chi-Chi supposed it was good to know that he didn't suspect anything after seeing them together in the hall. She could carry on as planned and rekindle her relationship with Goku in secret. But knowing what she just learned, she felt like she was already playing with fire. She had been so worried about the possible consequences to her sons if this didn't work out, that she hadn't even considered protecting her own feelings - or Goku's. It was too late to pull back now. She'd already given into the temptation and offered him hope. Now all she could do was her absolute best to make this work the second time around. But she couldn't do it alone. She needed Goku to put everything he had into this relationship.

Chapter Text

A/N: My personal life is almost back in order after my chaos, so the wait is over. I definitely haven't forgotten this story. Just a little holdup this week, but the next chapter is finally here.


When Chi-Chi opened her eyes in the morning, she immediately closed them. There was a dull, throbbing ache behind her eyes that only worsened under the bright and sunny lighting of the room. With a groan, she rolled over, taking the thin sheets wrapped around her legs with her, as well as the heavy limb draped over her side. With her face now buried in the fluffy lavender pillow, Chi-Chi's eyes shot open again and darted to the other side of the bed.

"Goku?"

Upon seeing the handsome, peaceful face resting on the pillow beside hers, Chi-Chi sat up suddenly, in spite of the increased pain to her head. Temporarily, that pain was overridden by the shock of finding her ex, or her boyfriend, whatever he was to her now, sleeping beside her under the Briefs' roof.

Smacking the pillow when Goku tightly closed his eyes and rolled onto his stomach, Chi-Chi growled angrily. She didn't know how they'd ended up in the same bed, but she had a pretty good idea. Furrowing her brows as Goku groaned and rubbed his forehead into his pillow, she tried to fill in the missing pieces, but everything after heading upstairs was a complete blank.

"Chi," Goku yawned and opened one tired eye to look at her, "what's going on? Did somethin' happen?"

"That's what I'm trying to remember!"

Even though she was already covered modestly in a white cotton nightgown, Chi-Chi twisted her fingers tightly in the sheets and pulled them over her chest as she glared through squinted eyes towards Goku and the bright sunlit window behind him. Goku laughed and flopped on his back, as if this were perfectly comfortable. As if this didn't mean what Chi-Chi thought it meant. As if there weren't a lot of other guests outside that door who could've seen Goku enter her room last night or might possibly see him leaving it this morning.

When he turned his head to her, smiling widely, Chi-Chi felt her blood just boil. She was ashamed for apparently having given in so easily again and lost control of herself, but she was even more furious with him for coming to her bed and looking so smug about it. With her jaw clenched, Chi-Chi kicked her sheet-wrapped foot hard into Goku's side, attempting to kick him out of the bed.

Goku was forced to the edge of the mattress, but stopped himself short of falling off. With a gasp, he snapped his gaze to Chi-Chi. "What was that for?"

"Get out of my bed!" Chi-Chi yelled, grimacing and lowering her voice when she realized her voice was too loud. "I can't believe we slept together last night."

As Chi-Chi squealed and cupped her face in her hands, mortified, she felt the bed shift towards her. She shook her head, unable to peel her hands away and see Goku's face, which she could feel so close to hers. But when she felt him settle back, his weight shifting the mattress again, she raised a brow.

"I don't think we had sex, Cheech."

Chi-Chi peeled her fingers from her eyes to find Goku once again sprawled comfortably on his back, with his gaze fixed on the ceiling and his moving arms stretched beneath the covers. She felt uplifted by Goku's assertion. If he was right, this would be so much better. The last thing she wanted right now was to jump off with a relationship that depended on sex and had no deep-rooted feelings involved. As Goku lifted the sheets and strained his neck to look down the length of his body, Chi-Chi cocked her head and leaned forward, extending her hands to support herself on the mattress as she curiously scrutinized his furrowing brows, the pink tip of his tongue slipping out from between his lips, and his focused gaze.

"Why not?" She asked. "Do you remember something?"

Goku turned a brilliant smile on her as his muscles visibly tensed and stretched beneath his white cotton tank and his toes pulled on the sheets tented over his body. "All I remember is you snuggling with me under the covers."

Chi-Chi clapped her hands over her burning cheeks. "I snuggled with you?"

"I didn't mind." Goku shrugged and glance down the length of the sheets again. "But if we had sex, I wouldn't be wakin' up this hard."

"What?!"

She couldn't stop herself. Without her consent, her eyes had already traveled to the location of Goku's waist concealed beneath the tented sheet. As his hands moved between his legs, Chi-Chi had to bite the inside of her cheek at the sound of a low moan escaping Goku's lips as his entire body shivered. Chi-Chi was able to recognize that it wasn't only his outstretched toes putting tension on the thin sheets.

"…so I don't think anything happened last night."

"Goku!" Chi-Chi hissed his name as she flushed and frantically shuffled to the opposite end of the bed on her knees. "Put that away!"

Goku raised a brow. "What d'ya expect me to do with it, Chi-Chi?"

Chi-Chi's jaw slowly fell as she stared back at his expectant gaze. She didn't know what he was supposed to do with it. When they were married, usually...usually...her heart fluttered in her chest when a smile crossed Goku's face. No. That wasn't what she was asking for. That was exactly what she was just panicking over and wanting to avoid at this point in their budding relationship. There was another solution, and he was going to use it.

Placing her hands firmly on her hips, Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes. "Go to the bathroom. You need to get back to your own room before everyone wakes up anyways."

"You want me to pee?"

Chi-Chi scoffed. "Yeah."

Goku slowly sat up, the sheets sliding down his chest as his sleepy gaze shifted around the room. "But Chi-Chi-"

"We're not having sex here, Goku. Not now. There are still a lot of things we need to discuss."

"But Chi-Chi, this is-"

"This is not the time." Chi-Chi crossed her arms and shook her head. "Bulma's post-party brunch will be starting soon. We need to get movin'."

"I know," Goku's bottom lip jutted out, "but this is my room."

Nearly choking on her own spit at Goku's unsettling claim, Chi-Chi balked. When she took a moment to turn her gaze from the direction of the window, she realized the opposite wall was lined with unfamiliar furnishings, including a maroon chaise beside the door with a silky, navy suit and a bright blue tie draped over it. She felt a wave of heat rush over her face at the realization that she had crawled into his bed. What had come over her last night? Honestly.

So stunned was she by this revelation that she didn't realize Goku had crept closer to her, not until she felt his fingers wrap softly around her shoulder and his warm breath flutter against the loose hairs draped over the back of her neck.

"Since we're both here now," he whispered before his lips softly pressed against the curve of her shoulder, "maybe you wanna help me put it down the fun way."

With a staggering breath, Chi-Chi shifted away from the soft lips that once again pressed against her skin, moving towards her neck. She needed a moment to think, or at least collect herself. It was hard to think with Goku in the bed, breathing down her neck, softly wrapping his fingers around her resting hand.

When Goku guided Chi-Chi's hand towards the lower reaches of the mattress, she knew where it was headed, but she was still searching for words as she nervously licked her lips. "Goku."

"Chi-Chi," Goku exhaled against her cheek as her palm was placed over a rock-solid, warm appendage draped in thin cotton deep beneath the sheets, "touch me."

Immediately upon contact, Goku's hard cock thrust into her touch. Even as Chi-Chi shook her head in refusal, Goku pressed soft, sloppy kisses against her cheek. The warm, sheathed girth in her hand almost enticed her to give it a squeeze, but she knew once she did that, there would be no backing out of this.

"Goku," Chi-Chi inhaled sharply when his hand ran down the back of her shoulder, over the curve of her lower spine, "it wouldn't be right. We're guests here."

She pressed her free hand into his firm chest. She had no idea what time it was, but she was sure someone besides them had to be awake already. They really needed to start moving for the morning, and she had to make her way out of his room without being seen, or she'd be mortified.

Goku's hands continued their journey towards the crease of Chi-Chi's conservatively covered ass. "That's not stopping anyone else."

"What d'ya mean?"

"I could hear Eighteen and Krillin gettin' busy when I headed to my room last night," Chi-Chi felt Goku's lips pull in a smile as they pressed against her neck, "and Yamcha has a girl in his room right now."

"What?" Chi-Chi retreated sharply from the reach of Goku's tempting lips to look him in the eyes, "how would you know that?"

Goku let out a curt chuckle. "Thin walls."

"Goku!" Chi-Chi pulled back her hand, intending to smack his chest.

But as Goku moved in faster to plant his lips against hers, his lips made such an impact that the feel of his kiss completely drained all the intent from her hand, causing it to cup lightly as it fell against one of his smooth pecs. With a sharp moan, Chi-Chi sank backwards, allowing Goku to lay her down on the mattress as his tongue pressed into her mouth.

She moved her lips against his, enjoying the warm, slick sensation of his tongue caressing hers as she wrapped her arm around his neck. With her eyes closed, she relinquished in the softness of the blankets beneath her, the firm grip Goku held on her backside when his hand slid even lower between her and the mattress, and the pleasurable sensation of his tongue weaving through her mouth and around her lips.

A guttural moan escaped Chi-Chi's lips, and then she tensed. Thin walls. This couldn't happen here, not now. Gasping, Chi-Chi sat upright with such force that she knocked Goku off of her. Sending him a stern glare, she straightened the frilled collar of her conservative nightgown.

After regarding the look in her eyes with a pout, Goku slumped his shoulders. "Chi."

Chi-Chi was already climbing out of the bed. "No amount of whining or arguing is going to change my mind, Goku."

Goku expelled a heavy sigh, and then smiled. "Oh, well. It was worth a shot."

"Goku," Chi-Chi tiptoed towards the door, "I can't hear anything out there. Do you think the hall's clear?"

When Chi-Chi turned, Goku's eyes were aimed towards the ceiling. His lips pursed tightly before he finally nodded. "It's clear."

Hearing nothing but the ambient air blowing in the room, Chi-Chi furrowed her brows and pressed her ear against the door. "How do you- never mind."

"Hey."

Chi-Chi's fingertips fell lightly on the doorknob. "What?"

"At the brunch-"

"Oh!" Chi-Chi released her grip from the round knob to turn on her heels and face Goku. "Remember, we're not tellin' anyone."

Goku frowned. "Yeah. I remember."

"So we have to be careful. We have to appear unhappy with each other, or at least distant. We have to appear-"

"Available?"

Chi-Chi grimaced and then crossed her arms. "Well, yes. But we can't be available."

Goku rubbed the back of his head. "That sounds really tricky, Chi-Chi."

"I know you can do it, Goku." Chi-Chi's encouraging smile quickly fell into a stern glare. "Besides, if you let that Capsa or Rue put their hands on you, I'll p-"

"Punish me?"

As Goku smiled in anticipation, Chi-Chi blinked, then scoffed and sputtered, trying to mask the heat she felt rushing to her face. She was going to finish her original sentence, but she realized her choice of words might actually sound promising to Goku. Rather than finishing her threat, it was safer to change the subject altogether.

She raised a rigid finger in the air. "Watch out for Piccolo. He's suspicious. And nosy."

"Piccolo?" Goku gave a nonchalant shrug as he climbed off the bed. "Okay."

"Goku!" With eyes narrowed, Chi-Chi marched towards the bedside, before wobbling Goku off balance by entwining her fingers into the flimsy material of Goku's tank top and sharply tugging him down to her level. "If we're really doing this, you'd better be taking this as seriously as I am."

With his eyes locked on hers, Goku cupped his hand around the softer hand fisted in his shirt. "I am. Promise."

As her eyes narrowed further, Chi-Chi couldn't help noticing that Goku's tempting lips were so close to hers again. His promise was an encouraging sign, but she really needed Goku to know how serious she was about this relationship. Sometimes, Goku had to be told with more than words. Chi-Chi gave another rapid tug on his shirt to clash their lips together, pouring all of her feelings into it. She wanted him to feel her determination, her hopefulness, her fear - even the clouded, flip-flopping emotions she couldn't quite put a name to yet. Whatever she was feeling, by the time she pulled her puckered lips from his and sought his gaze, she hoped he could feel all of it.

When her eyes shifted to meet his again, Chi-Chi heaved a breath of relief at the soft veneer of understanding she could see in Goku's dark eyes. She released her grip without unlocking her gaze from his eyes. She couldn't remember the last time Goku made her a promise, but she could remember that all the times he did make her promises, he never let her down. As her eyes darted rapidly, taking in his smoldering gaze, Chi-Chi realized the gravity behind Goku's words. He understood, at least for the time being. She wasn't ready to let her guard down completely, but she had faith that he would do whatever he could to fix the mistakes of their past.

"Okay, Goku." Chi-Chi turned for the door with a smile, reaching for the knob before hastily withdrawing her hand into her chest. "Is it still clear out there?"

When Chi-Chi looked to him again, Goku smiled. "Sure. Go ahead."

"I'll see you at brunch."

As Chi-Chi pulled the door open to face the vacant hall, she heard Goku's soft voice behind her, "Yeah."


With a long sigh, Chi-Chi arranged her silky bangs neatly across her forehead, admiring her finished appearance in the mirror. She took in the soft, pastel pink shade of her flowing daydress with a nod of approval. She was probably going to look dressier than most people for brunch, but she liked what she was wearing. After the night they'd had in fancy attire, most guests would want to be comfortable today. After the night they'd had, most of them would probably be hungover and ready to go home. Chi-Chi wasn't quite sure why Bulma was extending this party for so long, but she supposed many of Goku's friends were the types to never tire of excitement.

Glancing down at the top of the oak dresser, Chi-Chi pinched a shiny pearl earring between her red painted fingernails. She made quick work of affixing that one, and then a second, to her ears to finish her look for the day. A glance at the bed behind her confirmed that her bag was still where she left it, packed neatly with all of her belongings. She almost wished she could skip out of this brunch and head home now, but her absence from the brunch would only raise questions.

Making her way to the door, Chi-Chi left her bag which would be taken down by some of the Briefs' hired help later. When she opened the bedroom door, she had to smile to herself. She was still surprised that no one caught her leaving Goku's room earlier, but she was relieved that it was close enough for her to sneak over. Maybe his closeness was what compelled her to climb into his bed last night. Maybe she craved for his affection more than she realized. She only wished she had more time to talk to Goku right now. With everyone else heading down for brunch, they would have to settle for making time later.

"Chi-Chi," Bulma's voice made Chi-Chi spin on her heels as soon as she stepped out of her room, "how'd you enjoy the party last night?"

As Bulma smiled, tilting her head and walking down the wide, blue-carpeted hall towards Chi-Chi, Chi-Chi wrung her hands together behind her back. Her hostess looked like she'd had a full night of sleep, which was hard to believe, seeing how much Bulma had been drinking at the party. Bulma was dressed in a pair of fitted jeans, a white t-shirt and brown cowboy boots, which immediately made Chi-Chi feel slightly overdressed by comparison, even if her knee-length jersey daydress was casual.

"It was amazing, Bulma." Chi-Chi beamed, forced at first, but her smile quickly became genuine as she recalled the extravagance of the previous night. "You really know how to throw a party."

"I know." Bulma coifed her wavy, shoulder length hair and giggled. "Hey! You and Krillin both went to bed pretty early last night. You missed all the fun!"

"Fun?"

Bulma playfully slapped Chi-Chi's shoulder as they walked towards the stairs together. "The drinking competition! You should've seen Goku and Vegeta."

Chi-Chi tried not to roll her eyes. "I'm sorry I missed it."

"Did you actually go to sleep that early?"

Chi-Chi averted her gaze towards the ceiling. "Yeah."

With a sidelong glance at her host's smiling face, she confirmed that Bulma wasn't showing too much interest in what Chi-Chi was actually doing while everyone was partying. As far as Chi-Chi could recall, she was going to sleep. Maybe she woke up in the middle of the night and that's when she ventured into Goku's room. That would make sense. Though, Bulma didn't need to know that part.

"Sorry we didn't have more eligible bachelors here for you, Chi-Chi." Bulma shrugged. "I feel kind of bad that you didn't meet someone."

Surprised, Chi-Chi let something between a laugh and a scoff fly from her lips. "What?"

"You know," Bulma smiled slyly, "Eighteen told me how she's been trying to set you up w-"

"Eighteen?" Chi-Chi balled her fists and stopped walking.

She couldn't believe her friend was still so insistent about that, and now even bringing Bulma into the mix. Of course, Eighteen probably loosened her lips with all that alcohol last night, but that was no excuse. It was bad enough Chi-Chi had one friend on her case trying to set her up, but now Bulma was in on it, too.

"Ooh," Bulma held an 'o' with her lips as her blue eyes widened, "I guess I wasn't supposed to tell you that."

"You guessed right! When I see her-"

"I'm right here." The grumbling voice behind them silenced Chi-Chi as she turned to see Eighteen walking slowly up to them. "And you can kill me for that now if you want. I might just welcome death."

The sight of Eighteen pressing the heel of her hand into her forehead left Chi-Chi temporarily speechless. She'd been about ready to kill her friend, but now, seeing that agonized grimace on Eighteen's face, she supposed Eighteen was already punishing herself.

"Wow, Eighteen," Bulma laughed, "you look terrible."

Eighteen shot a red-eyed glare at Bulma. "Shut up."

The look in Eighteen's eyes was enough to make Bulma flinch. After giving her friend a nervous smile, Bulma turned and proceeded towards the stairs. "So, brunch?"

"Sounds good." Chi-Chi sighed.

Placing her hand on the carved wooden rail of Bulma's staircase, Chi-Chi proceeded down the steps. Ahead of her, she could see the old lady she hadn't introduced herself to last night reaching the landing. Ahead of that lady, she could see Krillin and Goku clustered together downstairs, with Piccolo just ahead of them. Voices carried from the kitchen, where everyone was congregating. Chi-Chi suspected she and her group were some of the last to be heading down.

"Bulma," Eighteen groaned from behind them, "I don't think I can eat anything."

"Sure you can." Bulma smiled without turning around as she proceeded towards the landing. "Try some dry white toast. It's what I always eat when I'm hungover."

"Yum."

Chi-Chi had to laugh. Eighteen wasn't trying to be funny, but she sort of was whenever she was in a bad mood. Tactfully, though, Chi-Chi clapped a hand over her mouth, pressed her lips together, and stifled all the giggles she could. She knew Eighteen could hear her and she wouldn't want to upset her moody friend too much – even if Eighteen did talk too much about Chi-Chi's love life.

When Chi-Chi stepped foot on the hard, white ceramic tile at the landing of the stairs, she finally could see into the kitchen. People were on their feet, gathered around a bountiful spread set out on plates at a table centered in the massive kitchen. After finishing greeting Piccolo, who selected a seat far from the commotion, they turned to greet Krillin and Goku. Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes at the sight of Capsa, whose straight red hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail while her curves were flaunted in a form-hugging blue shirtdress. That woman caught Chi-Chi's attention because she wasn't wasting a second in making her approach towards Goku and Krillin.

"Good morning, Ladies."

Chi-Chi flinched at the surprisingly close, raspy voice of Master Roshi. When she looked to her left, he was even closer, leaning in as if he were examining the shape of her chest at his eye level. Crossing her arms over her breasts tightly, Chi-Chi glared at the old man.

"Good morning, Master Roshi." Bulma waved him towards the kitchen before raising a brow at Chi-Chi. "Let's eat."

"That was a nice party you threw last night, Bulma." Master Roshi chuckled as he walked ahead with Bulma. "Maybe you can come by my place and help me throw some shindig at the dojo to celebrate the next testing we'll be doing for my pupils."

"Sure thing, Master Roshi."

"Chi-Chi." Eighteen's low voice grumbled in Chi-Chi's ear as Bulma and Master Roshi entered the kitchen, continuing their conversation. "I really don't feel like doing this brunch."

Chi-Chi frowned and eyed the people all around them. "I don't, either."

She walked into the kitchen, though, knowing there was no getting out of this now. At least it was nice to know she wasn't the only one. She could always count on Eighteen to keep her from being alone in her sentiments. Then again, as she glanced at Goku, seeing him nervously chuckling at something Capsa was saying, she realized she and Eighteen weren't the only ones who didn't want to be there.

"Hey," Chi-Chi rushed towards Goku before smothering her aggressiveness with a smoothing of her flowing skirt and halting of her feet with carefully trained restraint, "good morning, Goku. Good morning, Krillin."

By giving both Goku and Krillin a nod, she hoped it wasn't obvious why she was rushing over there, pushing Capsa away from Goku with a bump of her hips. She was only coming over to acknowledge two of her friends.

Krillin smiled. "Hi, Chi-Chi."

Goku met Chi-Chi's gaze and opened his mouth to speak, but before he could, Capsa was tapping Chi-Chi on the shoulder. "Hey, aren't you his ex-wife?"

"Huh?"

"She's the one," Capsa narrowed her eyes at Krillin, then Goku, "right, Goku?"

"We're-" in the brief moment that Capsa's eyes left his face, Goku snuck Chi-Chi a wide-eyed look that pleaded for help, "we're…divorced. Yeah."

"Hm." Capsa crossed her arms and tilted her head with a dubious frown. "And you still talk to each other?"

"Well," Chi-Chi placed her hands on her hips and huffed, "we have children together."

"Oh!" Capsa's friend, the one whose name Chi-Chi couldn't even remember, cried out with a squeal. "He's a daddy? How cute!"

Looping her arm through Yamcha's, the blonde Capsule Corp. bimbo picked a bright red strawberry from the bowl of fruit at the plate in front of her jeans-clad hip leaned against the table's edge. Chi-Chi gaped at her beaming face. Why this woman was with Yamcha, but taking an interest in Goku, she had no idea. Chi-Chi snapped her head towards Capsa, then back towards the other woman. When she looked towards Goku again to see Capsa fluttering her lashes at his blushing face, Chi-Chi put the pieces together. To be fair to Goku, all eyes were on him at the moment, and he had just been proclaimed cute by a near stranger. Chi-Chi supposed she couldn't contribute all of his blushing to Capsa's attention. It was everyone's attention that was making him feel shy. Chi-Chi heaved a calming breath as she tried to remind herself of this.

"Yeah," Krillin's unrestrained laughter broke the tension as he clapped Goku on the shoulder, "their kids are great! Goku and Chi-Chi work really well together as parents, in spite of…well…" Krillin frowned and then shrugged, "not being together."

Chi-Chi clasped her hands together and gave her bald friend a smile and nod. "Thank you, Krillin."

She could never overlook a compliment about her children. They were the greatest joy in her life, the best gift Goku had ever given her. She missed them already, just from one night of being away. She really couldn't wait until this brunch was over so she could get home to them. She couldn't imagine what it was like to be in Goku's shoes, away from home for such long periods of times, only to see his boys every other weekend for the past years. It would be nice for them all to have him around more, though Chi-Chi knew she could never ask him to give up fighting. He loved it so much, and it made him happy. Chi-Chi would never want to take that from him. Still, the thought of his steady presence made her smile.

Unknowingly, Chi-Chi was already directing her smile at Goku when she caught a glimpse of Piccolo across the table in her peripheral vision. He was narrowing his eyes suspiciously at her, which immediately made her frown. She had warned Goku about Piccolo, and now she was the one giving herself away. Stubbornly, Chi-Chi avoided Piccolo's gaze and pulled out a chair, screeching the wooden legs across the tiled floor before she plopped into the padded seat. Goku was taking the empty seat next to Yamcha's, and with a murmur of light conversation, everyone else soon began finding a place to settle so their brunch could begin. This was good movement in the right direction. If they could only eat, Chi-Chi could get out of here.

While most of the guests settled and started diving into the food on their set plates, a hand put weight on the back of Chi-Chi's chair. "How could you let a guy like that get away?"

Chi-Chi inhaled sharply at the muttered question, before glaring over her shoulder at the slyly smiling pink lips of the woman hunched over her chair. "You try keeping him in one place."

Immediately, she regretted letting those words slip from her lips. What she meant as a challenge to the other woman, Capsa unfortunately accepted with a chuckle as she stepped away from Chi-Chi's chair. Crushing her hands into fists, Chi-Chi grit her teeth as she watched the swaying blue dress hugging Capsa's voluptuous curves while the other woman walked around the table to take the empty seat next to Goku.

"Ugh," as Eighteen grunted, the chair to Chi-Chi's side squeaked against the tiled floor and bumped hers, "I don't know how much more I can take after last night."

Never removing her narrowed eyes from the woman squeezing in closer to Goku, Chi-Chi responded to Eighteen. "Was last night that bad?"

"Sometimes I can't stand Goku and Vegeta."

"Oh."

"They're so annoying when they get together, you know?"

Chi-Chi watched as Goku reached out for his fluted glass, only to have Capsa coyly rest her hand on his arm. Shaking her head and pressing her lips into a hard line, Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes further at the display across the table.

"And," Eighteen popped a grape into her mouth with a reluctant grimace, "they drank up all the alcohol. We had to call it a night early because of them."

"I don't think that's such a bad thing, Eighteen."

Chi-Chi was in no mood for Eighteen's complaints, especially when it most likely served Eighteen well not to have more to drink than she'd already had. Of course, her friend's complaints were coming at a time when Chi-Chi had to witness another woman putting her hands all over her man just across the table. Goku couldn't do anything about it of course, though he was giving Chi-Chi not-too-subtle glances in search of permission to react. That would be bad, though. If he did or said anything too obvious, people would find out that something was going on between them. And then everyone would react, and they would judge, and Chi-Chi would have no way of defending what they were doing at this point. She couldn't even explain it to herself if she wanted to. She was still having doubts even as she sat there wondering what was really going through Goku's head about her. Yet, she didn't want to give anyone the chance to talk them out of this.

"We ran out of booze?" Goku scratched his head and raised a brow at Eighteen. "I don't remember that."

At the quiet end of the table, to Chi-Chi's left, Vegeta's subtle scoff resonated loudly. "That's the only reason you won. I couldn't continue, but I would have."

"Yeah." Krillin snickered under his breath, but quickly swallowed his laughter at the sight of Vegeta's spiteful glare. "Okay."

Yamcha stretched back in his chair to glance past the line of people sitting between him and Vegeta. "Goku won that one fair and square, Vegeta."

As Vegeta clenched his tine-up silverware in his fist and growled, Bulma shot to her feet. "One more toast!"

Growling something under his breath, Vegeta sneered into his tense shoulder. As Bulma started another speech which was a near carbon-copy of her first one and an obvious ploy to deter Vegeta from being his usual, ornery self, Chi-Chi returned her attention to Capsa. That woman was getting on her last nerve. Now she was daring to whisper something into Goku's ear while Bulma made her speech.

"Well said, Bulma." Piccolo raised his glass and tried to smile, but Chi-Chi could see the forced expression took more work than was warranted.

Shaking her head, Chi-Chi raised her mimosa in the air to join in the otherwise wordless, lackluster toast. Then, she began diving into her meal along with everyone else. Finally, they'd be able to get out of there, and Goku would be away from the others, and maybe she'd finally have a chance to talk with him. Then again, she really wanted to rush home to her sons. Talking to Goku soon was important, but it wasn't urgent enough to delay seeing her children. Maybe she'd have to settle for a phone call.

"So," the blonde bombshell on Yamcha's arm pressed her lips together and chewed her food politely while holding everyone's attention hostage, "Yamcha's agreed to go sailing with me and Capsa next weekend."

"Yeah!" Yamcha beamed at the woman. "It should be fun!"

When Yamcha patted Goku intently on the shoulder, Goku shrugged. "Sounds fun."

"Right?" Capsa giggled and exchanged a glance with the other woman. "So why don't you come, too?"

Pulling the previously egg-loaded fork from his filled mouth, Goku blinked at Capsa. "Schailing?"

After briefly frowning at Goku's lack of manners, Capsa quickly recuperated with a smile. "Right. Rue's got Yamcha. You'll be my date. It's no fun being the third wheel."

Goku gulped. "Date?"

Goku's eyes widened as he looked to Chi-Chi, who immediately glared and bared her teeth at him because he needed to look somewhere else, at anyone else but her right now. This wasn't good, and Chi-Chi doubted he could handle it on his own, but she certainly couldn't help him without outing their relationship to their friends. But he better handle it. Because if he actually agreed to go out with that woman, Chi-Chi might just be angry enough to scream.

Goku smiled before focusing his gaze on his plate and loading his fork again. "I don't think so."

Capsa smiled and carded her pale hand through Goku's black hair. "Goku."

"Hey," knitting his brows, Goku peeled Capsa's hand from his head, "can you give me some space?"

"Goku," Krillin's voice made Goku snap his head in his friend's direction, "why don't you want to go? You can't turn down a cute girl like that, man. And you love the water. Take the offer."

Goku frowned at Krillin, before casting a sidelong glance at Capsa. "I'm just not interested in dating you."

"Goku!" Bulma gasped while Capsa's jaw fell. "Don't be so rude! You should go out with Capsa. You've got a nice, available, beautiful woman asking you out. It won't hurt to give it a try for once. Geez."

"Uh," Goku grimaced with a glance at Chi-Chi, before frowning at Capsa's encouraging smile, "I don't know."

Chi-Chi pressed her lips tightly together as she tried to restrain herself. She was going to rip that man's head off his shoulders after this if he actually agreed to go out with that other woman. She knew he was cornered, but rationalizing wasn't going to trump her emotions right now. Damn his friends and all of their pushy influence. And damn that woman for not backing down when it was obvious that Goku didn't want to date her. His body language was screaming disinterest.

"Yeah, Goku." Yamcha smiled, oblivious to Goku's uneasiness. "We'll even jump off for some swimming. It'll be great."

As Chi-Chi's teeth ground almost painfully, the sounds of Eighteen's groans of nauseated misery continued in her ears before a small movement in her peripheral vision suddenly caught Chi-Chi's attention. When she glanced to the side, she could see Piccolo's arms crossing over the ledge of the table, over his empty plate. His eyes fixed on hers looked so full of thought, so attentive, that Chi-Chi nearly choked in surprise. He was definitely onto her now. There was no way he wasn't picking up on her feelings when she was this anxious. It wasn't too late to derail his suspicions, though. She just had to take drastic measures, in spite of how much she hated doing this. She just hoped this wouldn't cause any damage that was irrevocable.

"That's right." Chi-Chi smiled at Goku's wide-eyed gaze, then directed her smile to Yamcha, Rue and Capsa. "When you all go out, you should anchor the sailboat off at that cute little restaurant with the dockside dining to grab a bite to eat for dinner. I hear the food is very good."

As Goku gaped at Chi-Chi, Yamcha tilted his head in consideration before looking to Rue. "What d'ya think, Babe?"

"Sure." The blonde shrugged and nibbled on another strawberry. "Sounds good."

"Goku?"

Capsa's question was met with delay as Goku blinked at Chi-Chi, looking completely dumbfounded until Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes at him. After the sacrifice she'd just made, she didn't need him screwing this up now. His staring at her was only going to spur Piccolo's suspicions, and likely those of others, all over again.

"Goku!"

When Bulma yelled at him, Goku snapped out of it with a start. "Yeah!"

"Really, Goku," Bulma rolled her eyes, "you need to take this dating thing more seriously. If it wasn't for us, you'd spend the rest of your life living like a hermit."

After Goku took a deep breath and let it out, he rubbed the back of his head and discreetly met Chi-Chi's gaze while everyone else resumed eating, satisfied by the conclusion of that conversation. Chi-Chi quickly buried her head in her plate to avoid any more eye contact at the table, though for that brief moment, she could see how completely baffled Goku was about her change in attitude. She hoped he didn't think she was sincerely encouraging him to go out with someone else. She definitely needed to call or text him as soon as she left here. Fortunately, it would be time for that very soon.

While Chi-Chi picked up and chewed on a crunchy, delicious slice of bacon which had been nestled at the edge of her plate, she glanced around the table to see everyone else quietly indulging in their meals. The only one who wasn't was Eighteen, who was frowning at her full breakfast plate as if the food were toxic. When Chi-Chi finished off her strip of bacon and dabbed the napkin against her lips to remove the tasty, oily residue left behind, Eighteen turned her eyes to Chi-Chi with a frown.

That frown was more than just a frown. Chi-Chi knew that look, and the judgement behind it was worse than Piccolo's. Unlike Piccolo and everyone else, Eighteen knew that Chi-Chi was full of shit for encouraging Goku to go out with someone else. As much as Chi-Chi had complained about her ex to Eighteen over the years, there was no hiding her true feelings about Goku seeing other women.

Eighteen knew that Chi-Chi wasn't happy at the moment, and probably was disappointed in Chi-Chi for her lack of guts for not speaking her piece against the arrangement. Little did Eighteen know, Chi-Chi would do just that – only later. Now, she had to let everyone else think she didn't care, until she knew just how much she really cared. Because it was going to be hard enough rebuilding a relationship with Goku. She and Goku certainly didn't need anyone else's input, like what she'd seen happening today, interfering with their own confusion.

Grunting at the bothersome intensity of Eighteen's piercing, narrowed blue eyes, Chi-Chi buried her head in her plate again and carried through brunch just that way, while quiet, superficial conversation resumed around the table. She didn't participate this time. She was too busy thinking what she would say to Goku after she left.


It was a sunny day outside. Chi-Chi wasn't too surprised by that, seeing how much the light had hurt her sensitive eyes when she'd first awoken in Goku's room. Now, after getting some food and drink in her system, the light was much more welcome, and the white-clouded, blue sky overhead looked beautiful. Grasping the gray canvas strap of her overnight bag in both hands, Chi-Chi lowered her gaze from her appreciation of the sky to see her white car pulling up in front of her. It was lined up behind Eighteen and Krillin's black SUV, which was behind someone else's silver four-door, which was behind a line of cars leading towards the front gate of Bulma's extraordinary home. They were finally going home.

Chi-Chi didn't know whether it was the fresh air of the outdoors or the relief of knowing she was leaving the Briefs' home that made her breathe easier, but she certainly could. She was returning to her family, hopefully to find that Goten had finished all of his schoolwork and his grandfather hadn't allowed him to slack off, but if he did, she would set her son straight when she got there. She knew she wouldn't have to do anything of the sort in Gohan's case. She just hoped he hadn't been getting into any trouble with his girlfriend while she was gone. She also hoped her father wasn't ready to keel over by the time she got there. Goten could be a real handful sometimes.

"Your car, miss?"

Nodding, Chi-Chi accepted the keys offered to her by the white-gloved, handsome valet procuring them into her awaiting palm. "Thank you."

With a tip of his white cap, the valet smiled and stepped aside. "Have a nice day."

As Chi-Chi made her way around the hood of her car, she cast a smile into the tinted back window of the SUV in front of her, noting Eighteen's hand waving from the passenger side, and Krillin's waving out of the driver's side door. She was sure they were looking forward to returning to Marron, just as she was anticipating seeing her children again. It was funny, how one day could seem such a long time when spent away from one's own children.

With a final glance and wave at the remaining guests still gathered around the double doors of the home's grand entrance, Chi-Chi ducked through the car door, into the gray canvas seat of her car. She smiled sadly to herself as she captured in her head the image of Goku talking with Vegeta and Master Roshi, granting her one last smile from his handsome face.

She didn't know when would be the next time she'd see Goku. With their custody arrangement and not wanting to get outsiders involved, it would be difficult to see each other without arousing Gohan's suspicions. And they only had so much time to spend together before Goku would have to go away again. He still had that training scheduled to begin in a month, and she didn't know much about it. There was no telling how long he'd be gone, whether he'd be willing to visit between training sessions, or whether he'd revert to his old ways. They really needed to talk about that. They also really didn't need anything else getting between them, which was exactly why Chi-Chi needed to stop that so-called sailing date before it started.

Reaching into her purse, Chi-Chi retrieved her cell phone, typed Goku's number, and began furiously texting. She needed him to know that she did not want him going sailing with Yamcha, his hussy and that other hussy. He could be so socially clueless sometimes if she didn't set him straight.

When Chi-Chi's text went through, she glanced out her window to see Goku's eyes light with surprise before he reached into his back jeans pocket. He pulled out his phone, his brows lifting as Vegeta continued talking to him. When his head turned from his phone to her car, Chi-Chi smiled and waved. She was sure he couldn't see her smile, but he definitely saw her waving before he started tapping his finger against the screen of his phone.

Chi-Chi's eyes returned to her screen, watching the three gray dots bouncing repeatedly which indicated that Goku was working on a response. When she glanced out the window again, Chi-Chi was glad to see that Goku's furrowed brows had given way to a smile as he texted, in spite of Vegeta glaring at him and looking rather angry about his inattention.

When Chi-Chi looked to her phone again, her impatience grew at the sight of those dotted lines disappearing, before a loud, blaring horn sounded from behind her. Glancing in her rearview mirror, Chi-Chi could see that the older woman was parked behind her, shaking her fist angrily. When Chi-Chi looked straight ahead, she could see that she had a clear driveway in front of her and realized she was blocking everyone else in by not moving. But just before she decided to move her car, her phone dinged to alert her of a new text.

As the old woman sounded her horn again, Chi-Chi concentrated her gaze on her phone and yelled, whether the woman could hear her or not, "just hold it a minute!"

Her heart pounded at Goku's response to her adamant message. It always mystified her, how he could make such a simple message so sweet.

K. Won't sail w/out you ;)

talk soon or c u soon? ? ?

Clutching the phone to her chest, Chi-Chi tossed her head back and smiled. She only had a moment to enjoy her relief before that car horn blared from behind her for a third time. With a growl, Chi-Chi turned to give the pushy old woman a piece of her mind, but she couldn't help catching a glimpse of the group gathered at the doorway causing an uproar as well. It looked like Goku was getting verbally reamed by Vegeta as he tucked his phone back in his pocket and raised his hands in an apologetic gesture. Maybe they were both pushing their luck right now. Chi-Chi needed to get going. Quickly, she typed a response.

-Call u 2nite

She would have to settle for now for only talking. She eagerly anticipated that conversation, but even moreso, she couldn't wait to get home to her children. With a wide smile, Chi-Chi turned on her ignition and grasped her steering wheel, pulling her car out of the long driveway to head home to find her sweet boys, hopefully behaving for their grandpa and awaiting her return.

Chapter Text

A/N: Just finished mapping out this story-it looks like it's going to end at 22 chapters, give or take a chapter. Not gonna lie-I'm dying to write the ending, but more has to happen before we can get there. Still, I know somebody asked a while back how long it would be, so there it is. And you'll probably be happy to know as well that there is an ending planned, so this fic won't go unfinished.


It gave Chi-Chi such a rush to fling open her front door. She would find her sons behind that door, as well as her father. They had to have heard her pulling in the driveway, because as soon as the door pulled back to reveal the interior of her warm, inviting home, Goten was already approaching her.

"Mom!"

"Goten!" Chi-Chi swept her smiling, yet wide-eyed son into her arms before he could flinch from her grasp.

She squeezed him tightly, reveling in his softness and smallness, until a quiet wheeze sounded from his mouth pressed flush against her shoulder. When she released her hold, Goten stumbled back, coughed, and beamed at her as if his mother hadn't nearly strangled him when she walked in the door.

"Chi-Chi, you're back!" Her father sauntered towards them, laughing at the scene as Goten giggled at Chi-Chi's eagerness. "How was the party?"

"Oh, it was great, Dad."

"Yeah?" Goten's eyes gleamed with excitement. "I bet there was a ton of food!"

Laughing, Chi-Chi closed the door behind her and set her purse on the small table by the door. "Yes, Goten. And what did you and Grandpa do while I was gone?"

After casting a suspicious glance at her father's nervous smile, Chi-Chi shifted her gaze back to Goten. He beamed at her as he rattled on about playing board games and watching cartoons, eating ice cream and playing in the backyard, not once mentioning his schoolwork or baths or healthy meals. It seemed Chi-Chi was right to be suspicious of her father, especially as she nodded at her son and peered sideways at the grimace of guilt crossing her father's face.

She crossed her arms and tapped a finger on her bicep. "Dad."

"Chi-Chi," Ox laughed and rubbed his head, "Goten had a great time! He did his all of schoolwork too, didn't you, Goten?"

"Oh." Goten frowned, before his brows furrowed with annoyance. "Yeah. That, too."

"Oh, good." Chi-Chi sighed.

She decided to let this one slide. Her father was lucky she was in such a good mood today, because she was fairly certain he had let Goten slide on some issues while she was gone. She would make sure Goten took a bath and brushed his teeth well before bed tonight, to make up for any of that he might've missed out on with his grandfather. But as they stood there in the foyer, Chi-Chi wondered why Gohan hadn't greeted her yet.

"Where's Gohan?"

Goten cocked his head. "Gohan?"

"He's at school, Chi-Chi." Ox chuckled as he turned to head back towards the kitchen. "You really did get relaxed during your time away if you're forgetting about that. The party must've went well."

After blinking in realization about Gohan's whereabouts, Chi-Chi shifted her gaze to her father's back and muttered, "better than you might think."

As Ox reached up into the cupboards while Chi-Chi followed him, she wondered if she might be able to say something to him about that. She knew she and Goku had agreed to keep their relationship a secret, but it would be nice to be able to share it with someone, and it would make her father so happy to know they might complete their family again. No, that was exactly why she shouldn't tell him.

"Was Dad there?"

As she made her way around the outer perimeter of the kitchen counter and felt a tug on her skirt, Chi-Chi looked down to Goten. "Of course, Goten. You knew he was going."

"That's not fair." Goten's bottom lip jutted out just like his father's had earlier that morning. "How come you get to see him and I don't?"

"Uh! Well, Goten-"

Ox's booming laughter interrupted Chi-Chi as he turned to brace his hands on the counter and peer over it at Goten on the other side. "Your mommy doesn't get excited about seeing your daddy like you do, Goten! Don't worry. If you ask him, I'm sure Goku will do something special with you."

Sliding into the cushioned seat of the barstool beside her countertop, Chi-Chi pressed a hand against her cheek to hide her smile as she turned her face towards the sliding glass doors to the sunlit backyard. If only her father knew how excited she was about seeing Goku right now. She was almost giddier than she'd been as a teenager back when they were dating.

"But," Goten whined, "it won't be Dad's weekend until next week."

Watching a tweeting bird flutter through the air over her grassy yard, Chi-Chi sighed. This wasn't the first time Goten had trouble understanding his separation from his father. This was part of the reason she spent so many years being angry with Goku, rather than talking over their situation. If she thought about this too much, she might revert to that thinking. It wouldn't be difficult. But it also wouldn't be right. They'd both made and acknowledged their mistakes, and they were both trying to be more mature about this now. It wouldn't be easy to move forward with Goku, but Chi-Chi knew she was strong enough to do it – and Goku needed a strong woman.

"I'll give him a call for you, Goten." Chi-Chi turned a pleasant smile on her son, removing the weight of her thoughts from her expression as she met his dark eyes. "We'll see if he can take you somewhere during the week, okay?"

Goten's eyes immediately lit. "Ooh! Do you think he can take me to Master Roshi's?"

Chi-Chi's brows lowered. "Why do you want to go there?"

Goten lowered his chin, frowning at the ground and kicking his toes repeatedly against the leg of Chi-Chi's stool. "It's a fun place for training. I need to work on my next belt anyways….and Dad loves being there."

Chi-Chi smiled fondly as she ran a hand over the top of Goten's soft, rowdy mess of hair. "Your daddy loves being anywhere you are."

Blinking at his mother, Goten slowly spread his lips into a wide smile. When she locked her eyes on his and smiled back, the thumping against her chair ceased as Goten jumped into a taller stance. "So you think he'll take me anywhere I want?"

"I'll ask him."

"Great!"

Though Chi-Chi's tone held a note of promise and her smile held reassurance as Goten turned and ran for his room with a skip in his step, she frowned when his back disappeared through the doorway. She hoped she was right to assume Goku would take Goten somewhere of his choosing. She never knew Goku to be difficult about this sort of thing, but she had no idea what other plans he might have for the week. And this might interrupt any chance of the two of them making plans. Then again, Goten would be visiting Trunks' house on Thursday. That might just work out well for them.

"Well, Chi-Chi," her father's voice broke Chi-Chi from her thoughts, "I guess you and Goku didn't have a falling out at this party."

"Huh?"

"For you to be offering to let Goku take Goten for a day when it's not even his turn yet," Ox shrugged as he turned to retrieve some random items left out on the countertop, briefly meeting Chi-Chi's gaze before he turned to deliver them to their rightful spots in the pantry, "I guess there wasn't any fighting."

Chi-Chi's brows furrowed as a scowl crossed her face. "Why do you have to assume we'd be fighting?"

Following a couple of thumps in the pantry closet, Ox darted out of the pantry with his brows raised high, raising his emptied hands apologetically. "I'm just saying I'm used to you being angry with Goku after you see him around his friends."

Growling to herself, Chi-Chi prepared to argue. But her father's placating gestures and apologetic smile told her he really wasn't trying to do anything more than state the truth. The tension in her shoulders eased as her scowl softened into a frown. Maybe she had always come home angry with Goku after seeing him since the divorce, but if it was true, she never noticed it.

"It's great that you two are getting along better lately. It's good for Goten…and Gohan."

"Yeah…I guess you're right."

Chi-Chi sighed, resting her chin in her palm as she propped her elbow against the countertop and indulged in the surreal witnessing of her father tidying her kitchen while she sat still. The crashing of blocks falling to the ground sounded from Goten's room, reminding Chi-Chi to be mindful of her volume and what she said about Goku around the house, because there were always curious little ears around her. She definitely couldn't tell her father the truth about her and Goku.

"Gohan," Ox cleared his throat as he slowly pressed the creaking pantry door closed behind his back, "should be home soon."

"Oh?" Chi-Chi glanced at the clock on the wall, noting it was still an hour earlier than Gohan's school dismissal time. "Yeah…in a little while."

"Yes, but," Ox rubbed his large palm slowly over the back of his neck and knit his brows as his worrisome gaze met Chi-Chi's, "when he gets here, you might want to talk to him."

"About what?"

Now Chi-Chi was alarmed. Her father never talked this way. He seemed legitimately concerned about Gohan. Something had happened while she was gone.

"Now," Ox raised his hands and grit his teeth, "don't get too worked up, Chi-Chi."

Chi-Chi bared her teeth. "Talk to him about what, Dad?"

"It's nothing. I mean, he's done nothing wrong!"

"Bull! There's something you're not telling me."

Hissing through his teeth, Ox glanced towards Goten's open bedroom door and flapped his hands. "Gohan was just concerned about you…that's all."

Balking to the point of nearly falling back in her chair, Chi-Chi blinked at her father. Gohan was concerned about her. That boy had to remember who was the parent here. Of course, she had no idea why Gohan would worry about her. She was more than capable of defending herself from any attackers. She had been taking care of this family without needing help for years now.

As her father sighed at her softening expression, Chi-Chi crossed her arms over the ledge of the countertop. "Why?"

"I don't know." Ox grumbled and turned to lean back with his hands resting on the edge of the opposite countertop. "I think he was concerned about what might happen between you and Goku."

As she was hit with a wave of exasperation, Chi-Chi slumped her shoulders. "For cryin' out loud."

Ox shrugged. "I don't know, Chi-Chi, sometimes you concern me, too."

Rubbing the heel of her hand into her forehead, Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes at her father. "I concern you?"

"Chi-Chi, honey," Ox sighed, "you clearly aren't moving on. I haven't seen any sign that Goku is, either. I thought it was a good sign at first. I hoped that eventually, maybe you two would work out your differences."

"But?"

"But sometimes I think it's just harmful to keep carrying on like this. Not just to you and Goku, but the kids as well, Chi-Chi. Gohan sees it more than you know."

Chi-Chi sighed. "Is it that obvious?"

As Chi-Chi warily averted her gaze from her father's, she gnawed her bottom lip. Her son was smart and attentive. Gohan was always sensitive to his mother's feelings, and heaven knew his father was like an open book. She could never convince herself that only she and possibly Goku were hurting all these years. She hated what this divorce did to the boys. She hated to think that Gohan had been riding through this with them, after all the effort she put into trying to protect him and keep him and Goten happy.

"Chi-Chi," the heaviness of a large hand blanketing hers filled Chi-Chi with warmth as she looked up into her father's suddenly near eyes, "you and Goku are good parents. Don't be too hard on yourself."

"I'm no-"

"and don't be hard on Goku."

"But I-"

Ox's lip twitched into a larger smile as his eyes sparkled with knowing - like knew his daughter more than he usually let on. "Just talk to Gohan. He'll understand."

As her father removed his hand, Chi-Chi shook her head. "But you don't underst-"

"I understand when I see my daughter happy." Ox's brief smile, when matched with his glassy eyes, looked sadder than any frown she'd ever seen him wear. "And I've never seen her happier than back when she was married with a young family. As much as I love Goku, if you need to forget about him in order to be happy like that again, Chi-Chi…"

Ox trailed off as he shifted from her view, but not before Chi-Chi caught sight of a pained grimace crossing his face. She knew it must've really pained him to suggest such a thing. Her father really did love Goku like a son, even after all that had happened. She could see why. She couldn't imagine ever not loving Goku, even if it was supposed to be for her own good. She wouldn't have to talk with Gohan though – that talk wasn't necessary with what was already happening between her and Gohan's father. She would just reassure Gohan with her happiness.

Grasping her father by the arm before he could turn too far, Chi-Chi sought his gaze with a determined smile. "I know what I need to do now to be truly happy, Dad. For myself and for my boys. Don't worry about us."

With a smile, Ox reached forward to gently cup Chi-Chi's cheek in his palm. "Good."

"Mom!" Goten walked out of his room with two different colored blocks held in his hands. "They won't stick together."

"Here," Chi-Chi reached for the blocks, grinning at her father as he bent down to rub Goten's mess of spiky hair, "I'll show you."

After Chi-Chi snapped the tight-fitting, plastic black block to the purple one, Goten accepted them, staring at the fused blocks with an expression somewhere between astonishment and frustration. "Thanks, Mom."

"Goten," Ox knelt down and swept the small boy into the crease of his arm before pulling him tightly to his chest, "give Grandpa a hug goodbye."

Ox grunted as he squeezed his squirming grandson, who grunted and giggled at the hug, waving his blocks in the air when he struggled to get free.

"You're leaving, Dad?"

"Yeah," Ox released the boy and stood to his feet, "I've been here long enough. I need to check on the old castle. Make sure it didn't burn down while I was away."

With a light chuckle, Chi-Chi leaned back against the barstool behind her and crossed her arms. "Well, thank you for watching them. I'm glad Goten didn't cause you any trouble."

As Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes suspiciously at her son, Goten's eyes bulged. "No, Mom. I was good, I promise."

"You sure were." Ox swept his fingers beneath the strap of a bag resting on the vacant barstool beside Chi-Chi's. "Tell Gohan I'm sorry I didn't get to say goodbye. But I'll see you all again soon enough."

"Bye, Grandpa!"

"Bye, Dad." Chi-Chi smiled and waved over her shoulder as her father stalked towards the front door. "Drive safe!"

"Yes, Chi-Chi!"

At the sound of her father's holler and the door slamming closed behind him, Chi-Chi turned her smile on her son who was sticking out his bottom lip, pulling apart and sticking back together his pair of blocks. "You can do it yourself now, Goten?"

"Yeah." Goten nodded before looking up to his mother. "But I think I'm done with blocks anyways. I'm gonna go play outside."

As Goten turned for his room, Chi-Chi's voice brought his feet to a sudden halt. "After your homework, young man. I know you're not finished yet."

With a sigh, Goten nodded and dawdled into his room. "Yes, Mom."

Shaking her head, Chi-Chi returned to the front door to retrieve her discarded purse. Inside, she found her cell phone flashing with text messages on the screen. Walking back towards the kitchen, Chi-Chi tossed her purse and the rest of its belongings onto her couch as she focused in on the disappearing messages on her screen. When she tapped the icons to fully see her messages, the first she saw was a text from Eighteen demanding they make plans for next week's sushi night. She responded with a quick text to plan for their usual place and time. Then she checked to see her other two messages, which were both from Goku.

The first had been left nearly an hour ago, before she even made it home from the party: Hi :)

The second, which came in nearly fifteen minutes ago, was a little longer: What time are you going to call? ?

Giggling to herself, Chi-Chi pressed her finger against the phone to start a response. At first, she was going to write something along the lines of, 'be patient, if you keep sending texts you're going to use up all of my messaging!'. But then she quickly deleted that and pressed a finger to her lip as she rethought the message. Glancing at Goku's last two messages again and re-reading them, Chi-Chi couldn't help giggling. The man was so impatient, but he was obviously excited for their nighttime phone call.

"What's so funny?"

Slamming her phone face-down on the kitchen counter, Chi-Chi shot her gaze to Goten's curious eyes as he leaned in to try and pry at her phone messages. "Nothing!"

Crossing his arms, Goten scowled at Chi-Chi. "You're not going to tell me?"

Chuckling nervously, Chi-Chi dabbed a finger at a small bead of sweat she felt rolling along her temple. "It's a grown-up joke, Sweetie. It's not appropriate for children."

"Aw," Goten dragged his feet as he made his way back to the kitchen table, "Gohan's always giving me that 'you're not old enough' stuff, too."

Chi-Chi pinned a fierce glare against her son's back as he seated himself at the table, in front of his schoolbooks and notebooks. "I don't want you making any excuses to get out of doing your work, Goten. You need to learn. Practice your math and your reading, and then you can go play outside."

The boy, whose shoulders had been drooped as he hunched over his work, quickly perked up at the word, 'play'. "Okay!"

Sighing in relief, Chi-Chi turned for the refrigerator, leaving her cell phone face-down on the countertop. She couldn't believe she'd just lied to her son. She was a terrible liar, too. But fortunately, Goten's attention was very easy to redirect. As her son went to work, writing fastidiously at the table, Chi-Chi opened the light-flooded, stark white and tidy refrigerator to search for ingredients for dinner. Being her first night back, she wanted to make something nice for her boys. Maybe her excitement over being home would mask any other excitement she was feeling, which was quickly building as the time to call Goku approached.


"…So that's when Videl punched the guy."

Blinking in disbelief, Chi-Chi dropped her spoon into her nearly empty soup. "She punched a boy? Won't she be expelled?"

"Expelled? No."

"What's expelled?"

Gohan shifted his gaze to Goten, over the polished-off trays where food once resided in the center of their dinner table. "It's when you're kicked out of school." He quickly focused his intent gaze on his mother. "But Videl isn't getting expelled. She just has detention tomorrow. Apparently, her dad talked to the principal."

"Oh, right." Chi-Chi rolled her eyes and moved her spoon from her empty bowl to rest on her napkin. "Mr. Satan has some pull over there with his celebrity status."

Goten slurped the rest of his soup and shifted his eyes to Chi-Chi. "Why doesn't Dad have celebrity status?"

"Hm?"

"He's on TV, too."

"Well, yes…"

"But," Gohan laughed and reached for a round, fluffy roll from the bread basket, "he doesn't flaunt it like Mr. Satan does. Dad doesn't like the media getting involved in his personal life."

"That's right." Chi-Chi gave Gohan a nod as she stretched her arm across the table for a roll and ripped it in half. "I don't know how Videl lives with that man. He must be so embarrassing."

Gohan grimaced into his soup bowl. "You have no idea."

"So, if people don't know Dad's a celebrity," Goten frowned pensively, "we're never gonna get free stuff like celebrities do."

"Goten." Gohan shook his head in disapproval. "Your best friend is rich. If you want stuff, just get it from him. You play with frogs and bugs more than you play with toys anyways."

"Right." Chi-Chi bit off a piece of bread and frowned at Goten. "I don't understand what you're complaining about."

Goten shrugged with a smile on his face. "I don't know. Trunks makes it sound fun, getting new stuff all the time."

Gohan brushed his crumb-coated palms together after finishing the end of his bread. "You don't have to get new stuff all the time to have fun, Goten."

Sighing, Chi-Chi leaned against the back of her chair, looking across the table at her boys on either side of her to see their meals were finished, too. Her body language was a silent proclamation that dinner had ended. Without need for further cue, Gohan stood with his plate, bowl, and silverware in hand before turning for the kitchen. As Goten shuffled out of his chair, Chi-Chi closed her eyes and took a deep breath. As soon as she had the table cleared and the boys sent to bed, she could call Goku. She had to mentally prepare herself to work through this kitchen-cleaning task patiently without letting off any signs that she was excited. Chi-Chi stood and pushed her chair in, shifting her gaze to the head of hair peeking from the other side of the kitchen countertop, where Goten was placing his dirty dishes in the sink.

"Goten, honey," Chi-Chi grabbed her own plates and headed towards him, "take a quick bath, and then if you want, Mommy will read you a story."

"I can read by myself."

Chi-Chi tried not to laugh at Goten's defensive tone. "Okay."

"I'm going to take my bath fast."

"Just make sure you wash well."

As Goten hurried towards the bathroom, Gohan brushed past Chi-Chi with his arms loaded with the dirty serving trays from the table. Turning the faucet on, Chi-Chi smiled at Gohan as he deposited the trays into the sink beside her. "Thank you, Gohan. You don't have to do any more. I've got it. Do you have homework tonight?"

"Homework?" Gohan wiped his hands on the sides of his pants and raised his brows as Chi-Chi reached for the sponge. "Oh, yeah. Also, Mom…"

Smiling into the bubble-coated dishes, Chi-Chi started scrubbing. "Yes?"

"I was going to call Videl first, if that's all right."

"Sure. Go ahead."

"And then I was going to do my homework, and then go to bed."

Pressing her lips together so she wouldn't smile in anticipation too much, Chi-Chi kept her gaze trained on the metal tray she was vigorously scrubbing. "Mm-hm."

"I think I'm going to stay after school with Videl tomorrow, too, so I can give her a ride home when she gets out of detention."

"Okay. You know I'm bringing Goten to Bulma's tomorrow, right?"

"Ah. Tomorrow's Thursday."

"Right."

Chi-Chi deposited the clean tray on the drying rack and moved on to scrubbing the utensils, one by one. She started to hum as she worked, but certainly felt wary when she noticed that Gohan had stopped speaking abruptly, yet remained standing by her side. Shifting her gaze to him, her smile fell as she recognized the focus with which he looked at her.

"Gohan?"

Gohan beamed. "You're in a great mood."

"Huh? What makes you say that?"

"Well, usually," Gohan rubbed the back of his head, "whenever you mention going to Bulma's and Vegeta's, you don't smile about it. You also haven't scolded me once since I've been home. It's kind of…weird."

"Oh? I haven't?"

Gohan cocked his head. "No. I guess you really had a good time at the party!"

"Yeah," Chi-Chi avoided Gohan's gaze as her smile widened, "that's what it is."

"Great! I'm glad to hear that. So…I'll just say goodnight now, because I'm going to my room and I'll shut the door."

"That's fine. Just don't stay up too late. You have to be up for school in the morning."

From Chi-Chi's peripheral vision, she could see Gohan blinking at her as his mouth fell open. "O-okay. Goodnight."

"Goodnight, Gohan."

As Gohan turned to leave, Chi-Chi had to breathe a sigh of relief. She kept her eyes trained on his back until he shut his door, while Goten emerged from the bathroom, wet, shiny and clean. Giving her younger son a quick smile, Chi-Chi only had to point a sudsy finger at his bedroom door before he toed across the hall wrapped in his towel, leaving a wet trail in his wake. But by the time she was done with those dishes, he should be dressed, and finished reading, and ready to be tucked in.

As she finished with the dishes, Chi-Chi couldn't help wondering how Gohan felt right now, as well as how he would really feel about his family getting back together. She knew he would never tell her anything that might upset her unless she pushed for it, and pushing for it would upset him, so she'd never do that. She wanted to know, though. As Chi-Chi turned off the running water from her sink, flicking the dripping water from her hands, a muffled ding sounded from the other end of the kitchen counter. Chi-Chi's eyes immediately darted to the source of the sound, where her phone still remained, planted face down. As she reached for a towel and dried her hands, Chi-Chi smiled in anticipation of what her new text might say. Of course, it might not even be from Goku. But it probably was. It was nighttime now, after all. Reaching for her phone, Chi-Chi took a cautious glance towards the hall before daring to look at the screen.

There, she had a simple text again, from Goku. Is it time yet? ? ?

Laughing to herself, Chi-Chi shook her head and quickly texted, s-o-o-n-!

She would need to put her little boy to bed before giving her attention to her big boy who was acting so needy. Placing her phone back where she found it, Chi-Chi stepped lightly towards the hall, carefully avoiding the wet puddles left behind on the hardwood floor by Goten as she maneuvered her way to his bedroom door. When she found Gohan's light still on beneath the crack of his closed door, and Goten's door a few inches ajar, she quietly pushed in. She expected to find Goten still reading, or possibly playing with his toys in bed as he often did. What she found instead made her lean back against the doorframe with a long exhale and smile fondly towards Goten's bed.

An open book was spread face-down across Goten's chest and face. His arms and legs were sprawled to his sides, hanging off the edge of the twin-sized bed as his chest slowly and deeply puffed up and down. She hated to disturb him when he looked like he was in such a comfortable sleep, but she had to get that book off his face. With her smile growing on her way to the bedside, Chi-Chi slowly reached for the book. She peeled it carefully from where the pages stuck to Goten's cheeks to reveal his closed eyes and open mouth with a drip of drool hanging from the corner of his lip.

Laughing silently, Chi-Chi placed the book on Goten's nightstand, before leaning over to kiss his forehead. When Chi-Chi's lips gently pressed against his smooth, warm forehead, Goten inhaled sharply and turned over to his side. He slept just like his father. While watching him, the fleeting image crossed Chi-Chi's mind of Goku sleeping next to her that morning. With Goten asleep and Gohan busy, her thoughts turned to Goku. She wanted to call him, and so she crept back towards Goten's door. With a flick of Goten's light switch, Chi-Chi closed his door behind her and headed into the hall. She wondered if it would be too soon to call Goku as she darted into the bathroom, retrieving a towel to quickly dry the hallway floor. As she squatted down to wipe the floors, she peered beneath the crack of Gohan's lighted door again. With Gohan still being awake, he could decide to step out of his room, but then she supposed if she was caught, she could claim she was calling their father to arrange a day for Goten to see him.

Chi-Chi quickly hung the wet towel in the bathroom before stepping into the living room. She paced nervously as she wondered how she could be so anxious about a conversation with the man she already knew so much about, who already knew so much about her. Finally, she decided it wasn't safe to make the call in the house. She would step outside to call Goku, where Gohan couldn't possibly overhear her.

Snatching her phone from the kitchen countertop, Chi-Chi darted for the sliding glass doors. It was so dark outside that she could see her reflection in those doors as if she was looking through a mirror at herself and the dining room and living room behind her. The expression on her face, surprisingly, matched that picture she had recently seen of Goku and herself early in their marriage. Her smile was brilliant-more brilliant than she could remember seeing it in years. She had to hear his voice.

Taking a deep breath, Chi-Chi stepped outside into the cool, open air of her back porch, with only the dim porch lighting and dark shadows surrounding her in the distant yard. She sat on the lawn chair, enjoying the sounds of crickets as she scrolled for Goku's number. Before she had even dialed it, his number came up. She was receiving a call.

"Goku?"

"Chi-Chi! You can talk now."

"H-how did you know that?"

"I didn't. I just figured I'd call and see if you answered."

"So you decided to call when I might've been tuckin' Goten in or talkin' to Gohan?" Chi-Chi growled under her breath. "What's wrong with you? You're going to give us away and we haven't even really started dating yet! I was supposed to call you."

"Yeah," Goku let out a whimper before his voice got small, "but you were takin' too long."

"Takin' too long." Chi-Chi scoffed, but as she shook her head, a smile crossed her face. "You really couldn't wait to talk to me?"

"No. But I'm glad we're talkin' now!"

Chi-Chi's teeth pressed into her bottom lip as she tried not to gush. With a careful glance over her shoulder, she noted as she shivered from a gust of wind that no one was wandering through the house yet, so she was probably good to continue talking freely. But she couldn't get too loud. This sneaking around thing was going to get old. But she needed to get to the bottom of their relationship, at least realize they had a chance, before telling anyone.

Chi-Chi studied the beautiful, starry sky above as she rested her free hand in her lap. "Goku, do you have any plans tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow?"

"Yeah. I'm dropping Goten off at Bulma's house, and Gohan has this detention thing with Videl-"

Goku's voice was skeptical. "Gohan was sent to detention?"

"No. Videl was. But since he'll be gone-"

"What did Videl do?" Now he sounded curious.

"Goku! I'm trying to ask you to take me out."

"Oh." A pause as Chi-Chi waited, her heart beating rapidly in her chest while her quelling anger was replaced with mounting anxiety. "Sure. We can go wherever you want tomorrow."

"Good." Chi-Chi beamed before blinking in realization. "Oh. That reminds me. Goten misses you."

"Yeah?"

"He wants you to take him out somewhere, and he has to pick the place."

"Does this have to be a secret meeting, too?"

Clenching the phone in her hand, Chi-Chi growled. "Goku."

"I'm teasin', I'm teasin'." Goku laughed. "Yeah. Have the little guy give me a call. I can pick him up Friday night."

"Good. And Goku?"

"Yeah?"

"Um…"

Chi-Chi scratched her head, suddenly feeling anxious about what she was about to say. It wasn't the question that bothered her, but what his answer might be. She had to ask though, no matter how hard it was. She would just have to do it quick, like peeling off a bandaid.

"What is it, Chi-Chi?"

"When…do you have to leave for training?"

"Training? You mean with Whis? I told you, next month."

"But I mean," Chi-Chi huffed as her nerves rattled, making her tingle all over, "when will you be coming back?"

"I don't know, exactly."

Pressing her lips together, Chi-Chi lowered her gaze to her toes curling against the back of the chair legs. She didn't really expect a different answer. Goku was never very particular on the details of his plans. But she realized this was part of who he was, and to some extent, something she would have to learn to live with if she really wanted to have a life with him.

"But!" the words flew from Goku's mouth hurriedly, as if he sensed her hesitation, "it shouldn't be longer than a month, maybe two months tops."

"Hm. Two months?" Chi-Chi frowned. "That's kind of a long time to spend apart for two people who are dating."

"Is it? Well…"

Chi-Chi let out a long, drawn out sigh. She supposed it was up to her to be strong. She could handle a long distance relationship, as long as she knew that Goku was coming back. She had no doubts about his faithfulness while they were apart, not after he'd remained faithful after seven years of separation with no hopes of getting back together.

"I know!" Goku's sudden exclamation made Chi-Chi gasp. "Maybe I can take a break in the middle if it's going to be long, and come back to visit."

"Really?"

"Or," Goku added excitedly, "maybe you can come out and visit me!"

Chi-Chi's excitement quickly faded as she let out a scoff. "That's ridiculous, Goku. Who would watch the children?"

"Gohan's old enough to take care of himself, Chi-Chi."

"I don-"

"And he can look out for Goten for a couple days."

After narrowing her eyes as she briefly considered the thought, Chi-Chi frowned. "I'd rather you come back."

She didn't like the idea of being that far away from the boys. She knew Goku had a point, and Gohan was more than capable of caring for himself and his younger brother, but it was still too far. As she waited for Goku's response, Chi-Chi twisted her free hand, which wasn't propping the phone to her ear, into the soft, jersey fabric of her pink dress draped over her thighs. The air was cooling compared to earlier in the day, when the sun had been up. As the material of her dress slid along her thighs, Chi-Chi could feel goosebumps prickling her skin.

"…If that's what you want, I'll do it."

Chi-Chi smiled. This could work, she knew it could. And she would be seeing Goku tomorrow, after dropping Goten off to spend the afternoon with Trunks. She just needed to decide where she wanted to go. There were so many possibilities, and when they had been married, it was rare to get Goku to agree to go places where she wanted to go.

"This is so exciting! I can't wait to go out tomorrow. Wear something nice, not just your training clothes."

"But," Goku grumbled, "You didn't tell me where you want to go."

"You don't need to wear anything fancy." Chi-Chi huffed. "Just somethin' nice enough to go out in."

"Okay."

"And Goku?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm…" Chi-Chi felt her face flush with heat as she twisted her hand tighter into the fabric of her dress, "I'm really looking forward to seein' you tomorrow."

His response was immediate. "Me too, Chi-Chi."

She wanted to get in as much time with Goku as possible before he would leave for his training. She was going to make the most of this month, and then she'd have to make the most out of his visit when he came back from training. Maybe if things were going well, on that visit they could tell the boys. They could make their planned visit a family thing. This could be exactly what she always wanted, just coming to her a little later than she hoped.

Smiling towards the sky, Chi-Chi felt her heart swell. "Goodnight then, Goku."

"Goodnight. Sleep well."

"I'll see you tomorrow."

When Chi-Chi stood from her lawn chair with her phone in hand, it vibrated as she reached for the sliding glass door. As she lifted the lighted phone to her face and pulled the door open, the sight of a sleep emoji and a heart emoji on her screen made her crack another smile before she stepped inside. Her Goku was too cute for words.

Chapter Text

Chi-Chi sat on her sofa, tapping her nails on the plush surface of the armrest. Her purse was seated on the cushion next to her, and she was more than ready to leave for the park, or the movies, or the skating rink, or whichever exciting date she could get Goku to agree to take her on. She had been home for nearly twenty minutes now after dropping off Goten. She wouldn't need to pick him up from Trunks' house again for a few hours, which is why she called Goku as soon as she left. As she sat alone in her house, waiting for him, her heart wouldn't stop fluttering in her chest.

With a growl, she shot to her feet, needing to do something. She couldn't just sit and wait. Glancing towards the kitchen, she realized it was spotless. For once, she regretted cleaning the kitchen straight after breakfast in the morning. Chi-Chi walked into her bedroom, stopping right in front of her vanity mirror. Her reflection still looked perfect, just as she left it. Her makeup was simple, yet sophisticated with dark pink lips and jeweled earrings to frame her face. Her bangs were shiny and straight, bringing emphasis to the long lashes outlining her eyes. Her blouse was unwrinkled, the collar of the dark green silk crisp and the tie at the waist nice and tight as it fluttered over her tailored black slacks. Yet there was a black hair falling out of place from her slicked-back ponytail. When she reached back to adjust it with both hands, she flinched at the surprising, resonating high-pitched ring of her doorbell.

With a smile, Chi-Chi beamed at her reflection before running to the door. She didn't even think to slow down or compose herself before opening it. She was just so happy that Goku was finally there. After she swung the door wide open, Chi-Chi clasped her hands together and bounced on her heels at the sight of the handsome man standing in front of her.

Goku blinked as the door swung open, looking surprised with the swiftness with which it was pulled, before his stunned expression softened to give way to a smile. His orange and blue letterman's jacket, along with his black spikes of hair, rustled with a gust of wind. As he stepped forward, the tongue of his laced-up, navy blue sneakers wrinkled the leg of his khaki pants, which Chi-Chi noticed, as her eyes traveled up the length of his legs, fit him very well.

When their eyes met, Goku raised his hand in the air. "Hi, Ch-"

Chi-Chi threw herself into him, pressing her lips right against his before he could say another word. She quickly pulled away with a smack of their lips, laughing at the wide-eyed look on Goku's face. After blinking out of his stupor with his cheeks turning a few shades brighter, Goku raised his brows at Chi-Chi.

Chi-Chi stepped back. "Hi, Goku."

"Do you know where you wanna go?"

Chi-Chi's eyes narrowed. "Why don't you come in first?"

"Oh!" Goku laughed, "Yeah, sure."

After Goku stepped over the threshold, Chi-Chi grasped the knob and swung the door closed behind him. With a sigh, Chi-Chi turned to face Goku, who was already walking into the living room, looking around curiously.

"This still feels weird."

Chi-Chi followed Goku into the living room with a tilt of her head. "What feels weird?"

"This." Goku sat on the couch, before raising his gaze to meet Chi-Chi's. "It's weird bein' here, with you again, without the boys around. Or Piccolo. Or Ox."

Chi-Chi frowned and narrowed her eyes as her arms folded over each other. "You're not makin' it sound like you want to be here."

"I do!" Goku practically shouted, his eyes wide with panic before Chi-Chi's gaze softened. "Really, Chi-Chi. I just…"

"I know." Chi-Chi sighed, before sitting down next to Goku, bracing her hands on her knees pressed together. "It's going to be weird at first, just like it'll be weird for me when you go away again and I have to wait for you."

Goku cocked his head. "Why's that gonna be weird? Ain't you used to me bein' gone?"

"Yes." Chi-Chi clenched her teeth, but quickly released the triggered tension traveling from her neck down her shoulders. "But after we divorced, I made a point not to care where you were goin' or when you would come back. Now…now I-"

A smile spread across Goku's face. "You might not've been keeping track of me, Chi-Chi. But you never stopped caring."

"Huh? I-"

Goku's eyes sparkled with confidence. "That's not you."

Chi-Chi turned her gaze to her hands as she furled her fingers into the fabric draped softly over her knees. "G-Goku."

Goku leaned into her. "I never stopped thinkin' about you, either."

When Chi-Chi turned her head, Goku's sweet, soft lips were right there, pressing softly against hers. Her eyes went wide briefly, before the feeling of his lips rubbing against hers made Chi-Chi close her eyes and hum in contentment. She took a deep breath, relaxing her weight fully into the couch when Goku released the kiss for just a moment. When he pressed his lips against hers again, his tongue immediately followed, pressing between her lips and begging for entrance.

His confession of caring about her during all those years of separation made Chi-Chi's heart sing. And somehow he saw through her wall of defenses, too. In spite of her displays of hostility over the years, he knew she'd never stopped caring, more than she could admit to herself. Suddenly, it wasn't so weird, being just the two of them again. It felt right, like it always should've been, having him there at home with her.

As Goku leaned forward, Chi-Chi leaned back, wrapping her arms around his neck as she parted her lips and allowed herself to taste him. While their tongues intermingled, their bodies settled comfortably on the couch, nestled together. Chi-Chi felt the warm touch of Goku's hand against her side, falling to the knot at her ribcage before sliding down to her waist and up again. When his hand moved down again, it moved lower, just as Goku shifted over Chi-Chi, completely wrapping her in his warm embrace as his hand cradled her ass. Chi-Chi's eyes rolled back behind her closed lids as she let out a moan and tried to breathe. Her breathing had become shallow in the heat of her building anticipation, and Goku's lips locked firmly over hers weren't helping matters.

Gasping for air, Chi-Chi slid a hand down to Goku's chest, pushing him off of her. In his overzealous excitement, Goku barely flinched from Chi-Chi's powerful push, and only took a second before trying to dive back into her lips again. Aside from needing to recover her lack of oxygen, Chi-Chi was determined not to let the date jump to the level of intimacy it was headed towards this quickly.

"Wait, Goku."

Just short of meeting their lips, Goku pulled back, furrowing his brows. "Huh?"

"What about our date?"

"Aww, Chi-Ch-"

"You promised me a date!"

"Yeah, but," Goku fondled her ass while sinking his nose into her chest to inhale her fragrance, "can't we mess around first?"

"Goku," Chi-Chi growled, "we only have…so much…haa…time…"

His continued nestling and breathing on her neck was distracting, especially when the sensation of moisture at the nape of her neck, from his tongue licking out to taste her skin shot through her like a shockwave. She could feel her toes curl as Goku's lips clamped down on her neck, suckling lightly, before he sucked even harder and she had to squirm away.

As Goku hummed into her neck and continued lapping at the sensitive area, Chi-Chi gulped. She knew if she opened her mouth now, she wouldn't be able to form a coherent sentence. So with another swallow of resolve and a forceful clearing of her throat, she pushed him away.

"I want to spend some real time with you, Goku." As Goku sat up with a frown, Chi-Chi gave him a smile. "It'll be nice."

"Yeah, okay." Goku looked unconvinced as he rubbed the back of his head. "Where do you want to go?"

"Well..."

Chi-Chi felt her smile stretch across her face as her eyes pensively darted to the side. She had made so many potential plans of things they could do together, so many places they could go, but she truly did like having Goku in the house with her again. She really didn't want to leave.

"Hey," Goku's fingers curled around her wrist, before her arm was tugged towards Goku, "what's this?"

"Hm?" Chi-Chi cocked her head to get a better view of the darkened point on her wrist Goku was studying. "Oh. A bruise."

"How'd you get that?"

There were a few probable causes, but that wound was most likely caused by her son. Goten usually trained for his martial arts tests with Gohan and Piccolo, but since Gohan had been swamped with schoolwork and Piccolo hadn't been coming by lately, there hadn't been much opportunity for that. Wherever Chi-Chi was needed in her sons' lives, she was willing to step up. Lately, that meant filling the void of sparring partners so her younger son could brush up on his techniques before his big day, which was fast approaching.

When Goku released her wrist, Chi-Chi rubbed the tender skin with her other hand, before narrowing her eyes at him. "If you must know, I probably got it from training."

Goku's eyes lit. "Training?"

"Yeah." Chi-Chi met Goku's gaze to see a fascinated gleam in his eyes. "You know Goten's testing is coming up. I've been helping him with his technique here and there."

"You have?"

Chi-Chi nodded.

"Can you show me?" Goku was on his feet, yanking her up by the hand before Chi-Chi could respond.

"Wha-Goku!"

"C'mon," Goku laughed as he tugged her towards the sliding glass doors, "it'll be fun!"

After the door slid open with a loud squeak, Chi-Chi stumbled through it just behind Goku, who'd already released her wrist to move into the grass and begin his warmup.

Releasing a huff, Chi-Chi closed the sliding glass door behind her. "You want me to train with you? That's what you wanna do for our date?"

"Sure!" Goku let out a grunt as he shifted his weight from one leg to the other, lowering himself nearly to the ground as his leg stretched across the grass in front of him, "you wanted to do somethin' fun together, right?"

"Well this," Chi-Chi raised a brow as she slowly walked towards Goku, "isn't exactly what I had in mind."

"I know we're not exactly dressed for it," Goku frowned at his clothing before looking up to meet Chi-Chi's gaze again, "but it'll be some good exercise. And we can spend some time outside."

With a deep breath, Chi-Chi couldn't help appreciating the fresh air, the calming breeze blowing against her skin, the warm sun on her face, and the background noises of muted street traffic and tweeting birds. He had her there. There was nothing like spending time outdoors on a beautiful, sunny day.

Chi-Chi closed her eyes momentarily as she released that deep breath and turned towards Goku. "Go-Ah!"

She raised both hands up, bracing them for the impact of Goku's fist, which was already flying towards her face. With her eyes narrowed, she clenched her teeth and bent her knees, accepting the hit against her forearms with resistance before she lashed out at him with a high roundhouse kick. There was no way she was going to let him take her off guard that easily without a little payback.

"Woah!" Goku dodged her kick, parrying out of the way so narrowly that Chi-Chi could feel the material of his clothing brushing against her pant leg.

"I told you I've been training!"

With a flurry of attacks – well-aimed thrusts of her fists, uppercuts, and a side kick that Goku didn't see coming until the last second – Chi-Chi was able to push her opponent back, though landing a hit on him proved impossible. Still, as he was driven back towards the fence, Chi-Chi couldn't help smirking. Goku was a far greater challenge than their eight year old son.

"You haven't lost your," Goku grunted after blocking another hit with his forearm, "form at all!"

"Of course I haven't!" Chi-Chi growled, baring her teeth as she futilely punched for Goku's guarded chest and spun to strike at his face, "just 'cause you haven't been aroun-"

Chi-Chi yelped, her eyes widening at the unexpected disappearance of Goku before she saw his fist flying towards her face – a fist she wasn't ready to block. He was too damn fast! It was either take the hit or throw herself backwards. So she threw herself back, knowing it wasn't going to be an easy or graceful landing in the grass. As she fell back, her hands flew out in front of her. Before she hit the ground, a strong grip latched around one of her flailing hands and jerked her to her feet.

Goku laughed. "You're still really good! Sorry I almost hit you there."

Chi-Chi pulled away from Goku's grip to glare at his smiling face. "You did almost hit me! What were you thinkin'? You can't punch your date in the face!"

Goku frowned. "Does that mean no more sparring?"

Chi-Chi brushed off the dirt clinging to her pant legs. "You bet it does. I'm going inside to wash up."

As Chi-Chi turned and stormed towards the house with her fists balled tightly, she didn't see or hear any sign of Goku making a move. She wondered what he might do after she rebuked him like that. After working up a sweat, she looked and felt filthy, and Goku had to feel it, too. Maybe she could wash his clothes before he left. Maybe they could wash up together.

"Is our date over?"

Hearing the dubious call from the distant yard, Chi-Chi smirked to herself as she pulled the squeaking sliding glass door to the house open. She didn't bother responding to Goku as she went inside. She'd let him sweat it for a while and think she was angry. He deserved for her to be angry after the stunt he pulled. Yet, she couldn't help feeling the opposite emotion. That little spar was more fun than she could've imagined. No man but Goku would've thought to do that with her on a date. He really knew the way to her heart.


By the time Goku ventured back into the house, Chi-Chi had nearly given up on her idea. His delay had benefitted her, buying her some time to prepare before she began to worry that he retreated out of fear. Her brief bout of worry ended when she heard Goku enter through the sliding door. He would be happy with his decision to stay, for sure.

"Goku!" Chi-Chi smiled into her vanity mirror, waiting for him to appear in her peripheral vision in the doorway. When she caught a glimpse of movement, Chi-Chi shifted her gaze.

"Chi-Chi," Goku frowned as he eased into the room, "you're not still mad about-"

With a grunt, Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes, stopping Goku in his tracks. "Look! Do you see what you did?"

Goku's eyes bulged. "What?"

"Look!" Maintaining her glare, Chi-Chi gestured sharply to a moist grass stain on her pants. "And you're even worse!"

Goku looked down at himself, before looking at Chi-Chi again with a worrisome grimace. "I am?"

"Come here!"

As Goku approached, Chi-Chi fought to maintain her stern scowl. She was angry about her clothing, and even his. Those were nice pants he was wearing that she didn't want to see ruined. He looked good in them, after all. But that wasn't really why she wanted him to come closer. She pointed at the carpeting just inches in front of her, hoping Goku would be brave enough to step that close to her.

When he did, she lifted her chin and placed her hands on her hips. "Take those dirty pants off! I supposed I'll need to wash them now."

Goku scratched his head. "You have enough time to wash my pants? I thought-"

"Now!"

"Okay!"

With a flinch, Goku tried tugging his khaki pants down, but they remained securely fastened around his waist. When he realized he needed to unfasten them first, his fingers moved to his belt with frenzied motions. He hurriedly removed his cumbersome jacket and tossed it aside as soon as he was done unzipping his pants. When Goku's jacket fell to her clean floor, Chi-Chi frowned, but she quickly turned her attention away from her carpet to watch Goku's pants falling to his calves.

While he kicked them off, Chi-Chi studied him silently. She was almost ready to strike. She had Goku just where she wanted him. When he kicked his pants towards the door, looking up at her in his simple white tee and matching boxers, Chi-Chi felt her face flush with heat. She could see the definition in his muscles - from his bare arms and legs to his chest. The flimsy material of what little clothing he was wearing didn't hide much of what it was supposed to be concealing, either. With an approving nod, Chi-Chi marched past Goku, to the wide-open bedroom door. After closing it and locking it behind her, she turned to face Goku with a smirk.

As she marched up to him, Goku grimaced. "Now what, Chi-Chi?"

"Now," Chi-Chi prodded a finger forcefully into Goku's chest, causing him to wince, "you kiss me."

"I-" Goku blinked before his eyes widened, "huh?"

Chi-Chi wasn't going to wait. She had enjoyed such a romantic time with Goku in the backyard, sparring together like they used to do in the old days. She felt like a teenager again. And as her smiling lips pressed against his, and Goku quickly recovered from his shock by sweeping his arms around her and pressing his body flush against hers, Chi-Chi knew he had waited long enough, too. With a playful giggle, Chi-Chi shoved Goku away from her so he fell into the soft mattress of her bed behind him.

When he bounced off the springy mattress, Goku stretched his arms out, pulling Chi-Chi down with him. She felt her feet fly out from under her before she landed face-first on Goku's chest with a grunt. As he grasped her by the waist and tossed her onto the mattress beside him, Goku laughed. Chi-Chi tried to sit upright as soon as she felt the soft, cushy down comforter beneath her back, but she was pinned down by a heavy weight before she could move. A shadow loomed over her as Goku moved in closer, causing Chi-Chi to flinch.

"What are you do-ah!"

Scrunching her shoulders to her ears and her eyes tightly shut, Chi-Chi tried to escape the wet, tickling sensation against the shell of her ear, but Goku's tongue was determined to torture her, causing her to let out a fit of laughter.

"Mmhhm," Goku's lips nibbled the rim of her ear before he pulled away to meet Chi-Chi's gaze with a spark of amusement in his eyes, "I love your laugh, Chi-Chi."

As Goku backed off to rest on his heels, Chi-Chi pushed him and giggled. "Sto-"

Chi-Chi's words were cut off with a gasp as her pants were tugged away from her, nearly pulling her off the bed with them. As Chi-Chi clenched her teeth and anchored her fingers into her soft, flimsy comforter, she felt her pants slide off before she heard the swish of the fabric falling to the ground.

As Goku settled his chiseled body on top of hers, Chi-Chi met his tender gaze and exhaled his name, "Goku."

"Can we mess around now, Chi-Chi?"

The sound of his husky utterance made Chi-Chi writhe beneath him. Goku was already lifting his hips and wiggling to peel both their undergarments away, until the warmth and softness of their bare skin touched. He knew the answer to that question. It was amazing he even asked her. Even more amazing, she knew if she said 'no', he would stop, even when they were this close. But that was far from what she wanted at the moment. When he had her panties and his boxers fully removed, Goku hesitated, looking up to meet her gaze.

Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes. "What are you waiting for, Goku? I'm yours."

The force of his thrust made her entire body arch as her head tossed back to bury into the pillow. She was amazed that in spite of the tight fit, he was able to slide right into her. She shouldn't have been that surprised, though. She knew she wanted him badly, ever since that spar started. And she knew how turned on he was by watching her fight. As he pulled back and thrust in again with a groan, Chi-Chi dug her fingers into his cotton-covered shoulder and released a withering sigh at the exquisite sensation of his shaft gilding in and back out of her. She was so sensitive to every minute movement that with her eyes closed, she could visualize the ridges and length of his length as it penetrated her to her core.

"Mmm…" Goku's breath sent a chill down Chi-Chi's neck.

When Goku nestled his face into her pillow and pulled his hips back, Chi-Chi wrapped her other arm around his wide shoulders, pulling him into her. "Goku!"

That thrust felt even more satisfying, because she had control over it, and he was now hitting that special spot inside her that made her want to squeal. As their pace increased, Chi-Chi knew this wasn't going to take long. The sensual build-up had been happening long before they even removed their clothing. Within minutes, Goku was plowing into her so deeply that it seemed he thought he would never be able to get deep enough inside of her. Chi-Chi was clinging to him, digging her nails through his t-shirt, into his back as she uttered unintelligible noises from her parted lips.

"Ch-I'm-hahhhhh!" Goku's pace became frenzied as a pulse shot through Chi-Chi's core, giving her a jolt that made her entire body quiver.

Her gratifying spasms intensified as that pulsing continued from Goku's trembling hips grinding erratically into hers. Chi-Chi clenched her eyes shut and rode the sensation, keeping her lips pressed tightly together as her lover's arm wrapped securely beneath her waist. After a moment of stillness, of holding each other in their arms, Goku blew a puff of air into Chi-Chi's face, and then rolled off of her, relieving her of his pressing weight.

With a deep breath, Chi-Chi closed her eyes and pulled up the unmade bedsheets to cover her exposed lower half. She was basking in the euphoria as she laid beneath the soft sheets beside Goku, opening her eyes to the tranquil view of her white ceiling. Goku was silent, aside from his steady breathing, which sounded just as relaxed as Chi-Chi felt. When she heard the swish of his sudden movement in the sheets, Chi-Chi turned her head to meet Goku's eyes and see his brilliant smile.

"I think we should tell 'em, Chi-Chi."

Chi-Chi propped herself up on her elbows. "What?"

"I wanna tell the boys. This secret's fun and all, but it seems kinda selfish to keep this to ourselves when it's gonna make them happy, too."

As Goku's smile widened, Chi-Chi was inclined to mimic the expression, even when she disagreed with his words. "It will make them happy."

Chi-Chi pushed off the mattress to sit upright as she frowned somberly into her lap. Without needing to glance from the eggshell-colored sheets pooled around her waist, Chi-Chi could hear, see and feel Goku's smooth movement as he sat up to join her, before a warm hand pressed against the small of her back. In spite of the fact that Gohan and Goten would be very happy about their parents' reconciliation, she didn't agree with Goku's suggestion. She was worried that the news would make them too happy. It was still too soon. At this point, she was willing to put her own feelings at risk by putting her faith in the success of this relationship, but on the off chance it didn't work out, she wasn't willing to sacrifice her children's potential heartache.

With a sigh, Chi-Chi shifted her bleary eyes to meet Goku's blissful gaze. "Goku..."

"C'mon!" The feather-light touch of Goku's hand shifted from her lower back to the sensitive skin of her bare waist, causing Chi-Chi to recoil and let out a sharp giggle. "You've gotta-"

"Mom?"

Chi-Chi gasped, her eyes shooting to the thankfully closed, fortunately locked bedroom door. But judging by the tone of Gohan's voice from outside of it, the sounds of Goku and Chi-Chi's conversation and giggling didn't completely escape him.

As a throat clearing sounded from outside the door, Chi-Chi found some relief in its lack of volume and lack of nearness. She realized that Gohan must've just walked in the front door when he heard them. That meant he couldn't have heard everything. But he had to have seen Goku's car in the driveway. With her eyes widened in alarm, Chi-Chi turned to Goku to see him looking just as surprised, though not as troubled as she felt.

"Mom, is that…you?"

Chi-Chi cringed as she listened in silence. What was worse than Gohan's presence and her current predicament with Goku was the second muffled feminine voice she could barely hear, which was whispering with Gohan out there.

It seemed like her stunned body suddenly unfroze when Chi-Chi tossed away the bundled sheets and threw herself out of bed in a flurry of movement. She fortunately didn't have to give orders to Goku, who was already out of the bed and grabbing his pants from the ground, moving even faster than she was.

Finding and reaching for her pants, Chi-Chi let out a huff. "Y-yes, Gohan! I'm here. I'll be-" Chi-Chi paused to look frantically about for her panties, "I'll be right out!"

"Chi-Chi," with his pants still unfastened, Goku approached Chi-Chi just as she swiped her panties from the bed and bent over to step into them, "why don't I go out-"

"No!"

As Goku knit his brows at her loud exclamation, Gohan's voice came through the doorway. "What?"

"Nothing, Gohan!" Chi-Chi bared her teeth at Goku and wiggles into her panties. "No, Goku. Gohan had to recognize your car. He must be concer-"

"My car?" Goku quirked a brow before he looked down to fasten his pants. "Nah. I didn't drive here."

Chi-Chi eyes bulged as she looked up from her crumpled pants on the ground. "You didn't? Then how did yo - so he doesn't know it's you!"

Goku frowned and placed his hands on his hips. "But he's going to when he sees me."

"No he's not." Chi-Chi yanked her pants on violently, ignoring the whispered conversation she could hear from outside her door. "Because you're not goin' out that way."

Goku rubbed his hand over the back of his head, rustling his disarray of spikes. "I'm not?"

"You," Chi-Chi grabbed Goku by the shoulders and swiveled him towards her window, "are leaving now."

As Chi-Chi tried to shove Goku against the window's wide ledge, Goku braced his hands against either side of it and glanced over his shoulder with a pout. "But what are you gonna tell Gohan?"

"I don't know!"

Chi-Chi growled, baring her teeth as she reached past Goku and forcefully threw open the window, not caring if she broke the thing. Gohan was still out there, no doubt with Videl, and waiting for an explanation of why he heard a man's voice from his mother's bedroom. She really had no idea what she was going to tell her son. She only knew what vital information she was going to leave out. She had to protect Gohan and Goten from being hurt at any cost.

"Just go, Goku."

To Chi-Chi's relief, Goku was already throwing a leg over the windowsill. He looked suspicious of her decision, or maybe it was her motives, but he had to understand. If he really took a step back and considered this, he would see why she was being this stubborn about keeping the boys out of the loop a little longer. She only wanted it to be for a little longer, though. Goku did have a point. It would be wonderful to tell them, and to be united as a family again.

Gnawing her bottom lip, Chi-Chi grasped Goku's hand on the windowsill just before he finished nimbly climbing out the window. "Let's tell them after your trip. I'd like to see you a few more times before we involve the boys…if that's all right with you."

After Chi-Chi's eyes darted towards the ground, her shyness creeping in on her with that bold decision, she looked up to see a smile creeping across Goku's face. "Okay." He cocked his head. "You won't be seein' me though. I gotta leave tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?"

"Mom! Should Videl and I-"

"I'll be right there, Gohan! Don't go anywhere." Chi-Chi's eyes darted to her bedroom door before she shoved Goku the rest of the way out the window. "What do you mean tomorrow?"

"Whis told me to come early. Vegeta's getting too far ahead of me. I really need to catch up." Goku shrugged his shoulders with a frown. "I'll call you when I get there!"

"Goku!"

"Mom?"

"C-coming, Gohan!"

By the time Chi-Chi turned back to the window, Goku was gone. With a huff, she closed it, scratching her brow before she crossed her arms. With a slow pace, she headed to the bedroom door, having no time to think about Goku's change of plans as she wrestled with what she would say to Gohan. When she swung her bedroom door open with no plan in place, she immediately flushed at the curious gazes of her son and his girlfriend, who were pacing in the living room.

"Sorry," Chi-Chi laughed uneasily, avoiding their gazes as she hurried into the kitchen, "I thought you would still be at detention. I didn't expect you back so soon."

Videl crossed her arms and stepped forward, shooting a look at Gohan. "We can see that."

"Mom." Gohan stepped forward, then hesitated, pressing his lips together. "Are you…is everything okay?"

Chi-Chi raised a brow as she watched Gohan's gaze turn to her open bedroom door. Videl's narrowed blue eyes were pointing that way, too. Chi-Chi had to take a deep breath. They knew she hadn't been alone in there. It was either confess about the relationship, or look like a harlot now. Maybe she could just deny the whole thing and move on. Gohan would never push her for information.

"Who's the mystery man, Chi-Chi?"

Chi-Chi's eyes bulged at Videl's blunt question. To his credit, Gohan had the same disbelieving look on his face as his neck snapped towards Videl and a strangled noise escaped his lips. But Videl was far from ashamed or apologetic. Instead, she stood there with her arms crossed, her gaze firmly fixed on Chi-Chi.

Chi-Chi pressed her lips together, raising her chin as she reached for the teapot on her kitchen stove and carried it to the sink to fill it. "I don't believe that's any of your business, Videl."

"Maybe not," Videl shrugged, "but it is Gohan's business."

"Videl!"

As Gohan grimaced at his girlfriend, Chi-Chi glanced at her son, before shutting off the faucet and returning her filled pot to the stove. Gohan was concerned, but Chi-Chi doubted he really wanted to know who was behind that door. Even if his girlfriend was curious, Gohan was not the type to pry. He would just want Chi-Chi to be happy. As long as she assured him that she was, she could leave it at that. Keeping her back to the teenagers, Chi-Chi turned the knob to the stove.

"I'm sorry you two had to overhear," Chi-Chi cleared her throat, "whatever you heard. But he's gone now. And I'd rather keep this between me and him for the time being. It's a rather….new relationship."

"Yeah, sure." Gohan chuckled uneasily. "Of course, Mom. Detention didn't last very long, so that's why we-"

Chi-Chi turned with a smile, waving a dismissive hand in the air. "You don't need to explain. I promise there won't be any more surprises like that, Gohan."

Gohan sighed and turned to Videl with a smile. "So, can I tell her?"

Still frowning, Videl shrugged at Gohan. "Why not?"

"Mom," Gohan met Chi-Chi's gaze with a hopeful smile, "I asked Videl to be my date at the high school play. The theater's putting on a big production next week, so I'm going to take her."

"Oh." Chi-Chi blinked, relieved and confused by the simplicity of the news. "Well, that's fine. You two have fun."

"The only thing is," Gohan grit his teeth and winced, "it's the same night as Goten's testing."

Chi-Chi's jaw fell. "You mean you're missin' it, too?"

"Yeah." Gohan blinked. "Wait. Who else is missing Goten's test?"

"Your father." Chi-Chi said through clenched teeth before turning to cut off the heat at the stove.

The tea kettle was boiling, letting her know it was ready with a high pitched whistle from its steaming spout. The pause of silence in the conversation didn't escape Chi-Chi, and as her back remained to the teenagers while she opened the cupboard and retrieved her teacups and tea packets, she suspected they were having a silent conversation behind her back.

Maybe she'd just outed herself by admitting that she'd talked to Goku recently. They couldn't just assume that, though. There could be a number of reasons she'd know that already. It was going to be disappointing for Goten though, knowing both his father and his brother were missing his big test. Chi-Chi would have to step up and be all the support he needed. She would invite Piccolo to watch as well. At least Chi-Chi knew Master Roshi would make this an exciting achievement for Goten, and Gohan and Goku both would celebrate his achievement enthusiastically afterwards.

With a sigh, Chi-Chi lined the clinking mugs on her countertop. "Would you two like some tea?"

"Yes, please."

At the sound of Videl's voice, Chi-Chi turned around to smile at Gohan. "Gohan?"

"Yes." Gohan's frown lifted into an unconvincing smile. "Please."

"Don't worry." Chi-Chi smiled wider, before turning to pour the hot water into the mugs. "Goten will understand. He knows how proud both of you are."

"Yeah." Gohan sighed. "I guess this mean's Dad's already left for his training?"

Chi-Chi ground her teeth as she watched the steaming stream of water pour into the first empty white mug. She recognized the disappointment in Gohan's voice. He was looking forward to seeing his father that next weekend. Now, there was no telling how long it would be before Goku would be returning home. Chi-Chi hoped the location of this training wasn't too far. She hadn't even asked about that yet, and Goku was going already. All she knew was, he'd better keep his promise of calling when he arrived.

After biting the inside of her cheek to refrain from reacting too loudly, Chi-Chi set the emptied tea kettle down and spoke in a low voice. "He leaves tomorrow. I'll record Goten's test for him, so he can see it when he gets back."

"That's a good idea." Gohan let out an uneasy chuckle. "I want to see that, too."

"Of course." Chi-Chi turned with a smile, presenting the steaming white mugs of tea to the teenagers.

"Thank you." Videl said, reaching out to receive the mug and meeting Chi-Chi's gaze as they made the exchange.

Chi-Chi nodded, before handing Gohan his. "There, Gohan. Do you have homework tonight?"

Gohan smiled, the weight visibly falling off his shoulders as he accepted the hot mug. "Yes. I'll start as soon as I finish my tea."

Chi-Chi sighed in relief. She had to pick up Goten, and Videl would be leaving soon. Then she could conclude the night with a nice dinner with her children, who she felt were in a good place for the time being. She only wished she knew when Goku would be coming back. She could wait as long as it took, but if he failed to show consideration for his family's feelings, this was going to be a repeat of their earlier problems all over again. All she could do for now was invest her energy in her children and wait for him, hoping Goku would make the right choices. Hoping when he returned, they could once again be a family.

Chapter Text

Chi-Chi's eyes darted to her purse, just as applause filled the small dojo in which she sat. Her purse had temporarily pulled her attention from the hand-to-hand demonstration happening before her, both because from inside it, her phone was alerting her (a little too audibly) of a new phone call coming in, and because the amateur fighting she was watching wasn't holding her attention. Actually, she was chomping at the bit waiting for those kids to finish their tests already.

When she noticed the multitude of eyes on her, some twitching in annoyance at the musical sound coming from her phone, Chi-Chi grimaced. In a fluid motion, she reached into her purse seated on the bench beside her and switched the phone to silent. Whoever it was, she could call them back later. Goten's test was just about to start, and Chi-Chi wasn't going to miss it. With her eyes fixed on the open tatami mats straight ahead, Chi-Chi ignored the lingering glares and the stifling temperature of the room. Her little boy's black spikes were finally bobbing towards Master Roshi, who sat in the center of the mat in seiza in his gi with his hands clapped together.

As she watched her son bow to his master, Chi-Chi gulped. She couldn't help recalling the conversation he'd had on the phone with Goku the day before, or the conversation she'd had with him. Goku, who'd kept the calls coming regularly since he left, sounded so disappointed to be missing this. Yet when Goten spoke on the phone, it was like Goku managed to turn all of that disappointment around. Somehow, Goten ended that call handing his mother the phone with a smile and telling her that he knew Dad and Gohan wouldn't be there, but he would do his best. Sure, he seemed a little nervous on the drive to the dojo today, but he didn't seem upset. Chi-Chi wore a smile all the way over, not knowing how Goku managed to make their son so happy even in his absence, but appreciating his ability to do so nonetheless.

As Goten bowed to his gaunter opponent, Chi-Chi gnawed her bottom lip. His confidence was wavering - she could see it in his face as he met his taller opponent's taunting gaze. That little twerp. The kid was going to be sorry he messed with her son by the end of this match. Chi-Chi just knew it.

"Woo!" bellowed the heavy woman a few spaces down on the bench. "Get 'im, Son! Show that little runt you're ready for your next belt."

Growling with her teeth bared, Chi-Chi was ready to snap at the obnoxious woman, but before she could open her mouth, Master Roshi clapped his hands in a singular motion, silencing the crowd. Hurriedly, Chi-Chi dug through her purse, feeling for her camera. She had to calm down to take video of this. She'd promised Goku and Gohan. And if it came down to a persisting problem, she could kick that obnoxious woman's ass later for insulting her son.

After Chi-Chi lifted the camera in front of her face with a duplicate, miniature view of the live scene playing out before her, she smiled at the sight of Goten rising to his feet and facing his opponent with a humble bow. Aside from his telltale nervousness, he looked so much like his father. Chi-Chi felt her heart twist at the thought of Goku's absence. But she understood - Goku needed to train to become a better fighter. And without fighting, without doing the same thing Goten was now, Goku wouldn't be the same man with whom she fell in love. In spite of his need to fulfill that desire, Chi-Chi knew that Goku loved her with all of his heart. His love for her and his love for fighting were two separate entities which could coexist. If fighting was the big, juicy steak Goku couldn't help taking a bite out of, then Chi-Chi felt she was his tantalizing glass of sake, his delicate sushi, his savory rice and his sweet dessert. Still, Chi-Chi wished he could take some time off his training for Goten's sake.

"Begin!" Master Roshi's shout made Chi-Chi blink in surprise.

She held the camera steady, recording Goten's every move as Master Roshi called one technique after another, challenging the two boys to do their best in front of their small audience. She couldn't help staring in amazement at Goten's fluid movements, his amazing power, and his humble discipline when he followed every technique with a polite bow to his antagonistic opponent. Though she had trained with Goten herself, Chi-Chi had never seen him like this. It was as if…maybe Goku was training him over the past few weeks, too. Chi-Chi's smile widened as she watched the test progress, knowing Goku and Gohan both would be proud of what she was seeing from Goten. Her little boy was growing up, and growing strong.

Just as Goten was working through his final technique, tossing that scrawny kid to the ground, Chi-Chi was startled by a tap on her shoulder. With a snap of her head, she clicked off the record button on her camera and glared at the jerk who dared to disturb her during her son's test.

"What?! Can't you see that Goten's test isn't finished!"

When their eyes met, the little man grimaced, his lip trembling. "Y-yeah. I know, Chi-Chi."

Chi-Chi bared her teeth, ignoring the nearby people staring at her for that outburst. "You just interrupted my recording it, Oolong! Now Gohan and Goku won't even see this technique."

As the irritating other mother gasped, Chi-Chi shot her gaze towards the sparring scene, to see Goten getting back up from a fall and glancing curiously towards her. Great. Now her son's test was suffering because of this distracting interruption. Shooting a glare to Oolong again, Chi-Chi decided to keep it down, though her anger had only escalated.

"What," she seethed through clenched teeth, "was so important that you couldn't wait until Goten finished his technique?"

As Oolong opened his mouth to speak, Chi-Chi's eyes darted to Goten bowing to his opponent as his test ended. She was so fixed on his proud smile and his glance her way, that Chi-Chi hardly noticed what Oolong was holding in her face as she beamed back at Goten. When her eyes did flit back in Oolong's direction, Chi-Chi flinched at the item only inches from her eyes.

"Oolong!"

"Chi-Chi," Oolong curled the phone into his chest, then pressed it towards her again, his voice quivering, "it's for you. It's urgent."

"Urgent?"

With a firm nod, Oolong held his stubby arm rigidly, until Chi-Chi grasped the phone. His serious scowl, so uncharacteristic on his face, had Chi-Chi concerned. She realized, as she slowly brought the phone to her ear, that this really had to be important, for a man as cowardly as Oolong to be willing to disturb Chi-Chi while watching her son's test.

When she pressed the phone to her ear, Chi-Chi nervously licked her lips. "Hello?"

"Chi-Chi!" It was her father's voice. "I've been trying to call you."

Chi-Chi's eyes darted to her phone in the depths of her purse, lighting up the scattered contents. "I'm watching Goten's testing, Dad. What's wrong?"

"It's Gohan."

Chi-Chi gasped. "Gohan?" She shot to her feet. "What about Gohan?"

As Chi-Chi felt a tug on her skirt, Oolong cried, "Chi-Chi! Please quiet down."

When Chi-Chi followed Oolong's gaze, while her father rambled something in her ear about stopping by her house to pick up some things and hearing her answering machine, Chi-Chi caught sight of Master Roshi scowling across the dojo at her. Nearly everyone was staring, but she didn't care. Her father was trying to tell her something about Gohan, something that was urgent, and she couldn't even give him her full attention because these jerks couldn't let her interrupt the ceremony finalizing the children's testing. The testing was over. Master Roshi could shove his ceremony for all she cared. Her baby could be in danger!

"Dad," Chi-Chi swooped her hand through the strap of her purse and stormed away from the crowd, "what did you hear on my answering machine?"

"It was the hospital, Chi-Chi."

Chi-Chi gasped, her eyes widening as she nearly reached the door, pressed her back against the wall and held her breath, anticipating with the worst fear and greatest hope what her father might have to say.

"Gohan and Videl…were in an accident. They've both been admitted. They're in Emergen-"

Her heart pounding, Chi-Chi pulled the phone from her ear to seek Goten across the dojo, who was already approaching her with a curious frown. When Oolong hurried towards her, trying to make his way around the other spectators standing from their places on the benches to congratulate their children, Chi-Chi narrowed her eyes before meeting Goten's gaze.

"Goten! We need to go now!"

With a fervent nod, her son made his way around the slowly moving adults in a hurry, not even needing an explanation to understand the urgency behind Chi-Chi's command. Forgetting she was still holding the phone, Chi-Chi threw the glass dojo door open to the cool, dark night air, and watched as Goten ran through. When she followed him right out, the door slammed against somebody following behind her.

"Chi-Chi!" Oolong called over a howl of wind. "You still have our phone!"

With a growl, Chi-Chi clutched the object in her hand and with the other hand, dug furiously into her purse for her keys. She ignored Oolong while finding comfort in Goten's hurried, strong footsteps by her side. The dojo's stupid phone hardly mattered when there was a sweet, innocent boy in the hospital without his mother. She wondered how long they had been calling for her. How long it had been that Gohan might've been wondering where she was.

"Chi-Chi!"

When she finally found her keys, Chi-Chi pulled them from her purse victoriously. But when she reached the side of her car and looked up to see Oolong pursuing her and her son across the parking lot, she bared her teeth at the little jerk. Raising the phone she still held over her head, Chi-Chi growled, stopping Oolong in his tracks.

"Here!" She chucked the phone over her car, right at Oolong, "You can have the phone. Just stay out of the way, Oolong!"

Chi-Chi yanked her car door open, flinging herself into the driver's seat and turning the ignition before she even shut the door. A quick glance in her rearview mirror, and clumsy shuffling noises behind her confirmed that Goten was safely in his seat. He wasn't buckled yet, and neither was she, but Chi-Chi couldn't wait. She had to get straight to the hospital. So with a slam of her foot on the pedal, Chi-Chi sent the car in motion, skidding closely past Oolong as she drove the car towards the parking lot exit.

"Mom?" Goten's voice was shaky. "What's going on?"

"Gohan's…" Chi-Chi sighed as she turned her head furiously, looking to pull the car out of the parking lot and into the busy road, "Gohan's been in an accident, Sweetie. We have to go to the hospital to see him."

Goten gasped. "Gohan?"

"I'm sure he'll be fine." Chi-Chi forced cheeriness into her voice as she pulled into the street. "You did a great job on your test, by the way, Goten. We should tell Gohan all about it when we get there. I'm just going to call your father and make sure he knows."

After turning the radio on to hopefully ward off any eavesdropping of her conversation, Chi-Chi swept her phone from her purse seated beside her and dialed Goku on speed dial. When his voicemail picked up immediately, Chi-Chi ground her teeth together. Not bothering to leave a message, she hung up and dialed again. For all she knew, their son could be dying. He could be in pain and suffering without either of his parents there to look out for him. And Goku didn't even know what was happening. When she pressed the phone to her ear again, only to hear that voice recording again, Chi-Chi screamed out her frustration.

"M-Mom?"

"Sorry, Goten." Chi-Chi shook her head and tossed the phone back in her purse as a line of traffic came into view. "Mommy just wishes we could get there sooner."

"I know." Goten sighed. "Me, too."

"Oh…" Chi-Chi murmured, letting the remainder of her frustration fizzle out her lips in a puff of air.

Chi-Chi glanced over her shoulder as her car pulled to a stop behind a line of red taillights. Goten was seated there in the dark shadows, frowning stoically back at her. When their eyes met, he didn't look as upset as Chi-Chi expected him to be, but he did look concerned. She wished Goten could be celebrating his new rank in martial arts right now. A scare like this was the last thing they needed, especially when Goku wasn't even around to be there for them.

With a resolute glare, Chi-Chi turned her gaze forward again and reached back into her purse. While the traffic slowly moved up and Chi-Chi pumped the brake with the urge to drive through all the other cars, she pulled her phone out and slammed her finger on the speed dial and send buttons again. With her narrowed eyes never budging from the back of the car in front of her, Chi-Chi pressed the phone to her ear again. This time, when it again went straight to voicemail, Chi-Chi was pissed. Goku was miles away from them, probably training and having no idea what was going on. With her teeth clenched together, she prepared to leave a message, regardless of whether Goten could overhear her or not.

"Goku," Chi-Chi gripped the steering wheel tightly, "you should know that Gohan has been in an accident and he's…in the hospital."

She had to take a moment to contain a sob which threatened to escape her lips. Her throat was tightening and her eyes were watering at saying it out loud. But Goku needed to know more, and he needed to hear from Chi-Chi how she felt about him not being available at a moment like this. As Chi-Chi furiously spun the wheel upon finally reaching the intersection and then weaving between lanes to skirt around the rest of the slow traffic, she narrowed her eyes again.

"Videl was with him. My dad and I are heading there now. Goku, this family needs you to be here for us." She let out a huff before her voice softened. "I need you, Goku."

Just before a sob did slip out, Chi-Chi hurriedly hung up the phone and tossed it back into her purse. Pressing the back of her hand against her parted lips, she stifled the cry that she didn't want her younger son to hear. She wanted Goten to see her being brave and strong. She couldn't fall apart, even if she wanted to, not when Goten needed her. Whatever Goku was doing and wherever he was, she knew there was nothing wrong with him, except for maybe some twisted priorities. But she didn't want to upset Goten, and she didn't even know Gohan's condition.

She wished now that she'd gotten more information out of her father before she rushed off the phone. She knew there was no point in calling him now, though. He would undoubtedly be on his way to the hospital as well, and he never answered the phone when driving. As she wrung both hands around her steering wheel, making slow but steady progress under flashing streetlights towards the hospital, Chi-Chi repeatedly affirmed in her head that Gohan would be fine. She would arrive there to find him okay. And when all of this was over, she was going to kill Goku for failing to be there for her when she needed him the most. Just when she'd put all of her trust back into him.

"Mom? Is Videl at the hospital, too?"

Raising her rigid shoulders, Chi-Chi blinked at the thought. Her father did say something on the phone about Videl. Chi-Chi had no idea what her condition was either. She needed to get to that hospital already. She needed to see with her own eyes that her son was safe and breathing. She was assuming it was a car accident, but her father only said "accident". Maybe it was something else. Maybe Gohan or Videl could tell her exactly what happened when she got there, if they were in any condition to do so. Growling in frustration, Chi-Chi wrung her hands anxiously over her steering wheel again.

"Mom? Is she?"

"Huh? Videl?" Chi-Chi shook off her busy thoughts. "Y-yes. I think she'll be there."

"Good!" Goten's gleeful tone made Chi-Chi's eyes widen. "I can show her my new belt."

Letting out a heavy sigh, Chi-Chi kept her mouth shut and fixed her eyes on the road. At least Goten wasn't absorbing the severity of the situation. But she was. And she needed someone. She needed Gohan, first and foremost, because he was the one she was scared for, the one she needed to protect. But if he was in bad condition, if something awful had truly happened to him, she needed Goku. She needed him to at least give her a call. But she didn't even know if she could count on him to do that. She felt foolish for ever thinking that Goku could change.

She knew this, and still, her fears would be eased if she could only hear his comforting voice.

Chapter Text

Goku had never answered, had never called back. By the time Chi-Chi rushed through the automatic glass doors of the hospital's entrance, dragging Goten by the hand, she was fighting back tears that burned behind her eyes. She could never forgive Goku if something serious happened to Gohan and he wasn't there for their son. But she couldn't let her thoughts linger on Goku's potential and mind boggling failure to be responsive to his family's needs, not when her anxiety about Gohan was mounting with every swift step towards the reception desk. When Chi-Chi finally reached it and slammed her palm on the blue linoleum to grab the receptionist's attention, her jaw was clenched and her eyes were narrowed.

"Yes?" The young male receptionist continued sorting through papers, only casting Chi-Chi a sidelong glance. "Can I hel-"

"Where is Gohan Son?!"

With an abrupt flinch, the receptionist scowled. "You'll have to fill out some papers if you want us to share information about our pat-"

"Screw your papers!" Chi-Chi reached across the desk, grabbing the dismissive receptionist by his lapel. "I need to see him right this second! Is he injured? Does he know where he is? Is he asking for his mother?"

As Chi-Chi's bottom lip trembled and her eyes welled with tears, she aimed her gaze towards the fluorescent lights on the ceiling, wishing she wasn't in this situation. She wished Gohan was safe at home, waiting for her. Even doing indecent acts with his girlfriend under her roof while she was out would be better than this. For all Chi-Chi cared now, he could have sex with his girlfriend, as long as he stayed alive.

"Mom," Goten's fingers gently squeezed her hand, "it'll be okay."

His soothing touch and softly spoken words only helped to force Chi-Chi's emotions to surface, making her suppressed tears fall. Reciprocating Goten's supportive grasp, Chi-Chi shook away the tears springing from her eyes and falling down her cheeks. When her eyes shot to the stunned receptionist again, they immediately narrowed. She wasn't going to let her emotions get the best of her, not when Gohan needed her.

"Now," Chi-Chi yanked on the receptionist's collar to tug him over the desk towards her, "tell me which room he's in."

"I-I-" the receptionist shook his head furiously, a grimace of terror on his face, "I can't do that! I'm not allowed!"

With a sniff, Chi-Chi tugged violently on the receptionist's collar to plant his face on the desk. "I'll show you what's allowed!"

"Miss!"

Chi-Chi shot her gaze towards the feminine voice, while keeping her hold on the stubborn receptionist's face squished against the desk. "What?"

"Can I help you?"

Narrowing her eyes at the receptionist one last time, Chi-Chi released him and turned her gaze on the other woman standing there in nurse's scrubs, who looked a hell of a lot more helpful. "Gohan Son."

"Ah." While the trembling receptionist shuffled into place, the woman nodded and gave Chi-Chi a smile. "The car accident. He just got out of surgery. He's a hero, that one."

Before Chi-Chi could ask, Goten skipped ahead of her. "A hero?"

With an approving hum, the woman beamed at Goten and nodded. "Are you family?"

"Yes!" Chi-Chi snapped, marching past Goten, towards the nurse. "He's my son. Is he all right? What did he have surgery for?"

"He had some internal bleeding." The nurse glanced at the chart cradled in her arm, then looked up to meet Chi-Chi's gaze with a frown. "I'm afraid he's still unconscious. You might want to wai-"

"No way!" Chi-Chi brushed past the woman, determining by the way the nurse kept glancing at the double doors behind her that Gohan was somewhere behind those doors. "I'm going to see him. If you don't want to let me in, I'll find him myself. Come on, Goten."

"Uh," the nurse stumbled back as Chi-Chi swung the squeaky doors open, "h-his room is 104."

Chi-Chi felt a tug on her hand as Goten grasped her fingers and turned around to call cheerily, "Thank you, Lady!"

104. 104. As she made her way down the hall, checking for that number at every door, Chi-Chi felt her heart pounding faster and faster. She could practically feel the blood draining from her face in anticipation of what horror she might find. He had internal bleeding. Her son had to have surgery. Maybe there was more damage the nurse hadn't told her about. Chi-Chi wouldn't be able to talk to Gohan if he was unconscious, but at least she could see him.

She would be able to see that he was breathing and alive soon, unlike his father, who was probably still blissfully unaware of anything happening to Gohan. Chi-Chi's right eye twitched as she briefly considered calling Goku again, but he was on his own now. If Goku was so busy training that he couldn't bother to check on his family or check the half dozen frantic messages on his phone, then he wasn't as worthy of Chi-Chi's time as she thought. The moment he saw those messages, he should have been calling back.

But he hadn't.

Now that Chi-Chi was at the hospital, she couldn't wait on a call she wouldn't be able to receive. She could only wait for him to get his ass to them as soon as possible. All she could do was wait and hope. She understood that it might take him some time to get there, but if this wasn't a situation that warranted an interruption of Goku's training, this relationship was never going to work. Chi-Chi wouldn't spend the rest of her life with a man who couldn't get his priorities straight. As angry as she felt about that brief thought, at the forefront of her mind, Chi-Chi couldn't help grieving the relationship she'd be losing. Though she would never expect such callousness from Goku, she couldn't help fearing that he wouldn't pull through for them. And she really expected it to work with him this time. She had put all of her trust into him.

The engraved numbers on the white walls were flashing by like blurs as she hastily passed busy hospital staffers through the hall with Goten on her heels. When she finally recognized the number she sought, Chi-Chi came to a sudden halt. She re-read it, just to make sure. 104. The brown door was slightly ajar, and the room seemed to be cast in darkness, with only dim light flooding from beneath the crack of the door. With a steadying breath, Chi-Chi clasped her free hand to her chest and glanced down at Goten. He was pressed against her side with his bottom lip turned down, finally showing his fear. Chi-Chi let him cling to her leg as she turned to the door and pressed it slowly open with her palm.

She thought she had prepared herself for what she would find. But the sight before her, cast in shadows, took her breath away. The small hospital bed was centered in the room, with an IV pole beside it and a lighted heart monitor beeping steadily. The lumps and steadily rising and falling contours beneath the bed's white blanket reassured Chi-Chi that Gohan was there, breathing and alive. She couldn't see his face, though. She couldn't see his face because her view was obscured by the chair pulled up beside the bed, and the man sitting in it. Though his back was to them and his head was bowed, Chi-Chi would never fail to recognize his unique silhouette.

Forcing herself to breathe again, Chi-Chi steadied herself by pressing her palm against the door swinging open behind her. "Goku?"

As the head in the shadows lifted slowly, Goten laughed in relief. "Dad!"

Before Goku twisted in his chair to face them, Goten was already running to close the short distance between them. Goku's bleary eyes briefly met Chi-Chi's gaze as Goten threw himself into Goku's lap and squeezed his father, who took the abuse without grimace or complaint. In the moment their eyes met, Chi-Chi felt all of her anguish come to the surface and find its release. She didn't have to carry it around with her anymore, because she could see in Goku's eyes that he shared it.

She wasn't alone.

Goku came through for Gohan. He came through for her. The situation was hardly any better, but having Goku there - the whole family together - made the fear of what might come next bearable.

With a gasp, Goten released Goku and turned to lean over Gohan, whispering, "Gohan? Can you hear me?"

Once his lap was freed, Goku stood from his chair. Chi-Chi couldn't help panning her eyes towards Gohan's revealed face as Goku stepped aside and Goten stood over the young man debilitated in bed with swelling and bruises marring his handsome face.

"Gohan!" Where she once felt frozen in place at her post by the door, Chi-Chi was able to suddenly spring forward with a new surge of determination. Goku hardly finished turning towards her before Chi-Chi threw herself towards Gohan, landing instead in Goku's arms.

"Woah, easy Chi-Chi." Goku said. "The doctors said we have to be real gentle with Gohan."

She had intended to fling herself over Gohan's bed and see to it that her son was safe, but she was relieved that Goku caught her once she heard that new information. Her weight might've crushed his injuries, and she didn't think she would've been able to control herself from squeezing him with everything she had. She only wanted to make Gohan safe, like a mother always did. When Goku's warm embrace crushed her the way she needed to squeeze Gohan, Chi-Chi felt her tears well to the surface again. With Goku's solid body pressed against hers, Chi-Chi clung to him like she'd never clung to anyone before. She cried muffled sobs into his chest, wetting Goku's soft black t-shirt with her tears.

When his strong arms wrapped more tightly around her, warming her back and holding her in a comforting grasp, Chi-Chi felt like sighing in relief, if only sobs weren't racking her body. She couldn't tell which tears were coming faster – the tears of joy, or the tears of pain. Because her heart was aching over what had happened to Gohan, over still not knowing the extent of his injuries or his traumatic accident. But her heart was swelling with joy at the same time. Wrapping her fingers around Goku's back, Chi-Chi gripped Goku harder, tugging on his shirt as if she could get herself closer to him and find more solace from the beautiful beacon of light that he was.

"It's okay, Chi-Chi." Goku whispered. "Gohan's goin' to be fine."

Chi-Chi let out a ragged sigh. Goku's soothing voice was even more reassuring than his words. With the side of her face nestled against Goku's chest, Chi-Chi listened to the steadiness of his beating heart and closed her eyes, dismissing her tears.

"I tried callin' you, but they told me the reception's no good here." Goku sighed. "I came as soon as they called me, Chi-Chi."

"As soon as they-" Chi-Chi's eyes shot open in realization. The hospital was trying to reach her all through Goten's test. Goku knew about this long before she did. But he really must've rushed to the hospital to be there so far ahead of her, given the distance he had to travel.

Goku's chest shifted against Chi-Chi, pressing away from her as he turned. "Hey, Goten! I see you had your test tonight! How'd it go?"

When Chi-Chi leaned past Goku, she could see Goten glancing down at his gi and brand new belt tied around his waist. When Goten looked back up at his parents, he blinked back the tears that had flooded his eyes while watching and speaking to his unresponsive brother.

Chi-Chi smiled at her younger son. "He was fantastic, weren't you, Goten?"

Wiping away a tear, Goten met his father's gaze and beamed. "Yeah! I passed, Dad!"

"Of course you did!" Goku unwrapped his arm from Chi-Chi's back to rustle Goten's hair. "Master Roshi must've proud. I can't wait to watch it!"

While the two of them shared a moment of celebration, Chi-Chi's solemn gaze floated back to Gohan. She clasped her hands together, kneading her knuckles as she watched Gohan lying there with his eyes closed, one of them swollen, and one of them looking restful. A dark, solid bruise covered his opposite cheekbone. She'd never seen her son like this before, and she never wanted to see him like this again.

Chi-Chi was surprised by a heavy hand caressing her shoulder. "They were able to stop the bleeding; Gohan should be out of the hospital in a few days. Videl's fine, too."

Goten gasped. "She is?"

Goku nodded. "She's just being watched for a concussion."

"Oh," Chi-Chi frowned, wrapping her arms around herself, "they must've been so scared."

"Yeah." Goku turned a smile on Goten. "Why don't you keep talkin' to him, Goten? I bet he'll wake up if he keeps hearing your voice."

Goten cocked his head. "You think so?"

With a firm nod, Goku smiled at his excited son, who turned on his brother and pulled up his father's vacated chair to begin a one-sided conversation. As the chair legs screeched along the ground and plopped beside the bed, Chi-Chi tuned out Goten's quiet voice and turned her gaze to Goku. He was staring at her, a stoic expression on his face. Startled by his stare, Chi-Chi gasped and uncrossed her arms, letting them fall to her sides.

"It was crazy when I got here." Goku said quietly. "Nimbus was totaled."

"Oh." Chi-Chi frowned. "I'm sorry."

"I was already on my way back from Whis' when I got the call. I didn't want to miss the little guy's test." At the sight of Chi-Chi's eyes slowly widening, Goku chuckled. "Videl was getting checked out when I walked in, but they wouldn't let me see her. Gohan was the one with serious injuries anyways."

Chi-Chi gulped. "Did you watch his surgery?"

"Nah." Goku grimaced. "But I waited. They said Gohan threw himself over Videl in the accident, and that's what caused the worst of his injuries. If he hadn't done that, the way the crash happened, Videl might not've made it."

Chi-Chi gasped, glancing at Gohan's hospital bed to see his brother chatting away to him, though Gohan was still unconscious. Chi-Chi recalled what the nurse had said. Her son really was a hero. And there was no doubt that he was in love. She knew it, after seeing the sacrifice he was willing to make and with the way he looked at Videl…that look was exactly like the look Goku was giving her now.

"I'm sorry," Chi-Chi took a staggering breath, "that I took so long to get here."

"Hm?" Goku smiled. "You gave Goten what he needed. It's a good thing he got to pass that test. I knew he would."

Chi-Chi smirked. "You gave him some extra training, didn't you?"

"Maybe a little."

As a mischievous smile lit Goku's face, Chi-Chi smiled back at him. She realized now that she never really needed Goku to change. He was perfect as he was, though essentially the same man she married all those years ago. It was clear to Chi-Chi that he'd realized what he'd lost, and he wasn't going to let his family slip from his grasp ever again.

Placing her hand softly against his cheek, Chi-Chi looked into Goku's eyes until he closed them. He sucked in a sharp breath as her hand caressed his face, and raised his hand to envelop hers. His touch was warm, calloused and rough. Chi-Chi loved it. She loved everything about Goku, even his obsessive drive to improve and his impulsive decisions. It was all part of what made him perfect for her. And maybe, being able to love and accept that was what made her perfect for him.

With a smile, Chi-Chi lifted on her toes and planted her lips against Goku's. His eyes opened in surprise at the contact, but quickly closed again as his lips mingled with hers. Her body melted into Goku's, her hand caressing his cheek as the other threaded through the soft hairs at the nape of his neck. A soft moan escaped Goku's lips just before he pulled away from the long, tender kiss, leaving Chi-Chi gasping breathlessly.

When Chi-Chi caught sight of movement just past Goku's shoulder, she ducked to the side to see Gohan's dark eyes open, his astounded gaze fixed on them. Chi-Chi's chest heaved first in relief at seeing him awake and well, and then again at the startling realization of the sight Gohan had just awoken to.

As Goku's arms wrapped around her and pulled her in, Goku likely mistaking her change in breathing for Chi-Chi being upset again, Chi-Chi kept her eyes locked on Gohan's and rested her chin on Goku's shoulder. When astonishment gave way to realization in Gohan's eyes and an approving smile lit his face, Chi-Chi smiled back, tears once again welling in her eyes.

"Gohan?" Goten set his wide-eyed gaze on Gohan, then turned back to his parents. "Mom?"

With an utterance of surprise, Goku released Chi-Chi's hug to turn towards his sons. "Gohan."

As Goku's astonished gaze lit on Gohan's smiling face, Goten's eyes darted between Goku and Chi-Chi. Chi-Chi tried to conceal her smile, but she knew there was no denying what the boys just witnessed.

Goten broke the silence. "Does this mean Dad's coming home for dinner?"

Blushing and laughing, Chi-Chi exchanged a glance with Goku, who started laughing as well. When Gohan joined in and pulled his hand from the bedsheets to ruffle his little brother's hair, Chi-Chi knew there was no need to say it. Their family was complete again, and by the time Gohan would be released from the hospital, he'd be returning to a fuller, happier home.

Chi-Chi would have to surprise Gohan with a special hero's welcome, maybe plan a special dinner for him and Videl, her father, and even Piccolo and Hercule. After that, she'd have her wedding to plan, where she'd shock their friends with the nuptial invite. In spite of whatever arguments or differences she and Goku might encounter in the future, when they said their vows this time, they would truly mean 'til death do us part.


A/N: This has been a wonderful ride. I really enjoyed sharing my story with all of you, and all the comments you shared. I want to thank the reader who complained about the plot movement on Tumblr, because I feel like my reflection on this story after reading that actually lead me to a better ending than was originally planned. Thank you all for reading and sticking with this through twenty chapters (ending on a nice, round number). I have three other stories already in progress, so I'll be taking a break to focus on them before you see any new Gochi stories from me, but I will definitely keep writing Gochi. Thank you, reviewers, followers, and silent readers.